Most famous painters today
When it comes to ranking the most famous painters of all time, it’s important to remember that painting is an ancient art form that dates back to 40,000 years ago, when early humans used ochre and charcoal to create representations of animals or stencils of their own handprints on cave walls. It was, in other words, present at the dawn of symbolic thought, some 35,000 years before the written word.
Despite recurrent predictions of its death, painting has remained a tenacious method of expression even with the advent of the modern era and the arrival of photography, cinema, and digital technologies.
It’s impossible to determine how many paintings have been limned throughout millennia, but a small fraction of them could be considered everlasting classics that have become recognized to the public—and not coincidentally produced by some of the world’s most famous artists. While this may seem self-evident, it does not answer the question of what combination of talent, creativity, and circumstance leads to the development of a masterpiece. The simplest answer is that you’ll recognize one when you see one, whether it’s at one of New York City’s numerous museums (The Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim, MoMA, and others) or at other institutions throughout the world.
We have always sought means to express ourselves creatively, from the earliest cave paintings to modern artworks. The world’s most famous painters were trailblazers who experimented with new brush methods and sketched their themes in novel ways.
Learn more about these gifted artists who have created some of the greatest works of art ever created.
You can’t help but be amazed by these inventive painters and their finest works, whether you’re a fan of Dutch classics or modern art. While popularity is a relative term, these artists are the most sought for on the internet, and their works have lasted the test of time.
Here are the most famous painters in the world 2021:
- Vincent Van Gogh
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Pablo Picasso
- Claude Monet
- Rembrandt Van Rijn
- Frida Kahlo
- Gustav Klimt
- Salvador Dali
- Edvard Munch
21. Grant Wood
Grant Wood was a significant member of the Regionalist art movement, well known for his depictions of the American Midwest. Grant Wood caught the solitude of modern life by infusing subtle comedy into his artworks, particularly in his masterpiece, American Gothic.
He lived much of his life in Iowa and traveled to Europe four times. Wood was a jewelry and furniture designer as well as an artist. He is one of the most famous painters in the world 2021.
“All the really amazing ideas I ever had occurred to me while I was milking a cow,” he famously claimed. Grant Wood was born in 1891 and died in 1942, although his style was undoubtedly avant-garde for his period.
Famous Grant Wood paintings: American Gothic, Woman with Plants, and Daughters of Revolution.
20. Jacques-Louis David
David was a Neoclassical French painter who strove to communicate purity and symmetry in his work. He was born in 1748. This was a reaction to the excessive Rococo aesthetic.
David’s father was killed in a duel when he was only seven years old. Francois Boucher, a famous artist and his mother’s cousin, taught him how to paint.
David was a talented portrait painter who frequently depicted nobility and political figures such as Napoleon. Other artists, such as Ingres and Delacroix, were influenced by him.
Famous David paintings: Oath of the Horatii, The Death of Socrates, Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries
19. Sandro Botticelli
Although he was known as Sandro Botticelli, this Italian painter’s real name was Alessandro di Mariano de Vanni Filipepi. His brother gave him this last name, which means “small barrel.” He is one of the most famous painters in the world 2021.
Botticelli, a humanist who flourished throughout the Renaissance, was born in Florence in 1445. Several of his paintings, including The Adoration of the Magi, were commissioned by the Medici dynasty.
Parts of the Sistine Chapel, Events from Moses’ Life, The Punishment of Korah, and The Temptation of Christ were among the works he painted. Three of the most important Boticelli paintings can be found at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence: Primavera, The Adoration of the Magi, and The Birth of Venus.
Famous Botticelli paintings: The Birth of Venus, Primavera, Madonna and Child, Portrait of a Young Man, Madonna of the Book, The Adoration of the Magi.
18. Edouard Manet
In 1832, Manet was born into a rich family in Paris. Despite the fact that Manet stated that he had “no aim of overthrowing old systems of painting, or developing new ones,” he shook up the art world.
Édouard Manet was known for his unflinching portrayals of his themes. A courtesan stares directly out in Olympia, whereas Manet purposefully plays with perspective and mirrors in A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.
Despite the fact that Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass was rejected by the Paris Salon in 1863, the picture stole the show at Napoleon III’s Salon des Refusés. Although he strongly influenced the Impressionists, the artist considered himself a Realist.
Famous Manet paintings: A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Olympia, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe.
17. Pieter Bruegel
Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his son Pieter Bruegel the Younger are two well-known artists with the name Pieter Bruegel. The most well-known artworks, however, were created by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Bruegel was a pioneer of genre painting, having been born in 1525 in Breda, which is now part of the Netherlands. Incredibly detailed depictions of religious themes, peasants, and rural culture were created by him. In his works, he depicts games, dances, festivals, and banquets.
The Tower of Babel is a complex picture that represents the futility of human endeavor.
Famous Bruegel paintings: The Tower of Babel (Vienna), The Harvesters, The Hunters in the Snow, The Wedding Dance, Children’s Games.
16. James Mcneill Whistler
In 1834, an American artist residing in the United Kingdom was born. Whistler was a significant figure in the Aesthetic movement, which advocated for the creation of art for the sake of art. He is one of the most famous painters in the world.
“Music is the poetry of sound, and painting is the poetry of sight,” Whistler once observed, “and the subject matter has nothing to do with sound or color harmony.” He is classified as a Pre-Impressionist since his style was influenced by Orientalism.
The word Nocturne was coined by art collector Frederick Leyland to describe Whistler’s evocative night settings. Whistler used the word in all of his subsequent paintings of the Thames at night.
Famous Whistler paintings: Harmony in Gray and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander, Whistler’s Mother, Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket.
15. Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was a French artist who was born in 1869 in the south of France and is known for his use of color and inventive cut-outs. He co-founded the Fauvism art movement with artist Andre Derain.
Bright primary colors and bold, flat brushstrokes were hallmarks of Fauvism. The Post-Impressionism trend allowed artists to experiment with color more freely.
Matisse was a draughtsman, sculptor, and printmaker in addition to being a painter. He cut out shapes from paper painted by his assistants when his health began to fail in his late sixties. These collages represented a whole new art genre.
Famous Matisse paintings: Blue Nudes, Dance, The Fall of Icarus, The Snail.
14. Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Renoir was a well-known French impressionist painter who was enamored of beauty and feminine sensuality. He began his career as a porcelain painter in Limoges, where he was born in 1841.
Frédéric Bazille, Alfred Sisley, and Claude Monet were among Renoir’s friends. Dance at the Moulin de la Galette, one of his paintings, depicts the light dappling over young people dancing.
Renoir’s ability to paint portraits drew several wealthy clientele, notably banker Paul Berard. Because of his financial security, he was able to exercise some artistic freedom in 1878, and he elected not to exhibit with the Impressionists.
Renoir instead traveled to Italy and Guernsey, where he learned to sculpt as well as paint. He is one of the most famous painters in the world 2021.
Famous Renoir paintings: Bal du Moulin de la Galette, The Umbrellas, Luncheon of the Boating Party, Dance at Bougival, Girls at the Piano.
13. Peter Paul Rubens
Sir Peter Paul Rubens was a notable proponent of the Flemish Baroque style in the seventeenth century. Color and movement were emphasized in his dramatic paintings of religious and allegorical subjects.
From 1600 until 1608, Rubens lived in Italy. Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian’s works impacted him tremendously.
The artist was also fond of painting voluptuous women, and his style is sometimes referred to as Rubenesque to describe succeeding painters’ work. Rubens was also a skillful negotiator, negotiating peace between Spain and England in five languages.
Both King Charles I of England and King Philip IV of Spain knighted him.
Famous Rubens paintings: Elevation of The Cross, Self-Portrait, The Massacre of the Innocents, The Garden of Love.
12. Jackson Pollock
Pollock, one of the most well-known modern artists, was a key figure in the development of the Abstract Expressionism movement. By throwing and dripping diluted enamel paint straight onto a canvas on the floor, he established a new manner of working.
Pollock enhanced the intensity of these action paintings by smearing the paint with sticks and knives. The term “drip paintings” was coined to describe these works of art. He is one of the most famous painters in the world 2021.
We are unable to reproduce any of Jackson Pollock’s artworks due to copyright issues. There are many Pollock works on show at The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice if you want to view them in person.
Famous Pollock paintings: Guardians of the Secret, Blue Poles, Full Fathom Five.
11. Johannes Vermeer
This Dutch painter specialized in intimate household situations, typically depicting women, in the 17th century. Vermeer’s talent was recognized hundreds of years after his death, despite his lack of fame at the time.
Few artists have been as adept at capturing the effects of light and elevating the mundane. Johannes Vermeer had eleven children and died at the age of 43. He was one of the most famous painters in the world 2021.
There are 34 Vermeer paintings that have been confirmed, with three more that have not. Girl with a Pearl Earring, his most famous work, is a classic of Baroque art. This is a “tronie,” not a portrait of a real person.
Tronies are paintings depicting fictitious characters. Take note of the glistening pearl and the girl’s radiance.
Famous Vermeer paintings: Girl with a Pearl Earring (nicknamed The Mona Lisa of the North), The Milkmaid, The Lacemaker.
10. Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch, a Norwegian painter born in 1863, was a troubled soul. In fact, his most famous painting, The Scream, was designed to reflect his soul.
Munch was reared by his father, who suffered from mental illness, after his mother died of TB a few years after he was born. Munch had two sisters who died, and he was sickly as a child.
He used to draw to pass the time when he wasn’t at school due to illness. Munch went on to become a prolific painter, producing four versions of The Scream, two of which were stolen in art heists but were eventually recovered.
Famous Munch paintings: The Scream, Anxiety, The Dance of Life, Jealousy.
9. Salvador Dali
Salvador Dali, known as the “King of Surrealism,” was a Spanish artist who used his art to study the subconscious. Dali was not only a painter and sculptor; he also designed theater sets, window displays, and jewelry, as well as producing Surreal films.
Although not a painting, Dali’s Lobster Telephone, along with his melting clocks, is one of his most well-known works. Dali’s masterpiece, The Persistence of Memory, is widely regarded as his best work, with stunning technical details and dreamlike quality. He is still one of the most famous painters in the world 2021.
In fact, Dali produced some of his best work while he was sleeping. These pieces were dubbed “hand-painted dream photos” by him.
The maestro was sitting on a chair, holding a spoon with a plate underneath it, when he fell asleep. When he dozed, the spoon would fall from his grip and clatter onto the plate. Dali would then awaken and begin painting the images he had dreamed of.
Famous Dali paintings: The Persistence of Memory, Melting Watch, Portrait of Paul Eluard.
8. Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian Symbolist painter known for his revolutionary use of gold leaf. Klimt, who was born in Vienna in 1862, was a significant figure in the Vienna Art Nouveau movement.
Klimt, the founder of the Vienna Secession, and 20 other artists rejected the Künstlerhaus, a traditional Vienna art exhibition. In his Golden Phase paintings, such as The Kiss and Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, he embraced the avant-garde and were inspired by Byzantine mosaics he visited in Italy. Gold leaf is used to decorate these pieces of art.
Klimt was well-known for his seductive depictions of female figures. He is said to have fathered fourteen children.
Famous Klimt paintings: The Kiss, Judith and the Head of Holofernes, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.
7. Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo’s marriage to Diego Rivera, a well-known painter in his own right, was difficult. They painted each other for 25 years, despite their disagreements and illicit affairs.
Frida’s life was marred by serious health issues, which may be seen in her artwork. She was diagnosed with polio at the age of six and suffered from persistent limb pain. He is one of the most famous painters in the world.
Frida was injured in a bus accident when she was 18 years old, causing damage to her spine and pelvis. Due to her compromised spine, she had to wear orthopedic corsets, which she adorned with a Communist hammer and sickle.
Frida created some of the most iconic portrait paintings in history, many of which depicted her anguish.
Famous Frida Kahlo paintings: The Two Fridas, The Wounded Deer, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.
6. Rembrandt Van Rijn
This Dutch artist from the 17th century is known for his oil painting methods. Rembrandt was born in the Dutch city of Leiden in 1606 and studied painting under Jacob van Swanenburgh and Pieter Lastman.
Despite the fact that Rembrandt never traveled outside of the Netherlands, he was influenced by other Dutch artists such as Pieter Lastman, who had studied in Italy. Rembrandt was skilled at painting self-portraits, landscapes, biblical scenes, and animals, among other topics.
He was very fascinated by the effects of light. As shown in his Self-Portrait below, Rembrandt painted in an unusually realistic technique for the time.
Famous Rembrandt paintings: The Night Watch, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Self-Portrait.
5. Claude Monet
Claude Monet, a famous French Impressionist painter, advocated for landscape painting in the open air. Monet returned to France after a spell in London, where he created his renowned Impression: Soleil Levant painting.
Monet was influenced by Japanese art, and at Giverny he created an Asian-style garden. He painted the flowers at different times of the day because the reflected light captivated him. He is one of the most famous painters in the world 2021.
Around 250 oil paintings make up his Water Lilies series. At the Orangerie Museum, Monet created a dedicated space for the series.
He presented the series to the French government as a sign of peace the day following the Armistice of 1918. A few months after Monet’s death, the artworks were installed in the museum.
Famous Monet paintings: Poppies, Impression: Sunrise, The Waterlily Pond, Woman with a Parasol
This very influential Italian Renaissance architect, sculptor, poet, and painter was a Renaissance architect, sculptor, poet, and painter. He created the Pietà for St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome after training as a sculptor.
Between 1508 and 1512, Michelangelo painted the magnificent ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. They blend the idealization of the human form with unnaturalistic use of color, making them a success of the Mannerist style.
His marble sculpture of the biblical character David is likewise well-known. This 5.17-meter statue can be shown at the Accademia Gallery in Florence, and it was created between 1501 and 1504. A replica can be found in Piazza della Signoria.
Famous Michelangelo paintings: Sistine Chapel ceiling, The Creation of Adam, The Last Judgment – a fresco painting in the Sistine Chapel.
3. Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso, one of the most well-known painters in the world, was born in Spain but spent the majority of his life in France. Picasso, a gifted ceramicist, printer, theater designer, and sculptor in addition to a painter, has left an indelible mark on modern art.
Over 20,000 artworks, costumes, pottery, and prints were created by him. The suicide of Picasso’s buddy Casagemas is considered to have influenced his iconic Blue Period. He is one of the most famous painters in the world 2021.
Picasso was influenced by African and Oceanic art, as evidenced by his landmark work, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. He created the ideas of Analytic Cubism alongside the artist Georges Braque.
Famous Picasso paintings: Guernica, Child with a Dove, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
2. Leonardo da Vinci
Some of the most famous artworks of all time were created by the celebrated Italian polymath. Leonardo da Vinci was a gifted draughtsman, architect, sculptor, engineer, and artist, as well as an inventor.
He envisaged a helicopter, calculator, parachute, and diving suit, among other things. Many of these innovations have models on display at Le Clos Lucé, a lovely French château where Leonardo spent several years.
Leonardo da Vinci was a famous sketch artist who filled notebooks with his works. The Vitruvian Man is a pen-and-ink illustration of the ideal human body proportions.
Leonardo perfected the sfumato painting technique. This painting style, which translates as “soft” or “blurred,” creates gentle mixing without hard contours. In Leonardo’s painting of the Mona Lisa, the technique was used to great effect.
Famous Leonardo paintings: Mona Lisa (also known as La Gioconda), The Last Supper, Lady with an Ermine, Virgin of the Rocks.
1. Vincent Van Gogh
This Post-Impressionist painter from the Netherlands is regarded as one of the finest painters of all time. Van Gogh, who was born in 1853 and had no official training, made roughly 2,100 pieces of art.
Vincent had intended to become a priest, but when he was fired at the age of 27, he turned to painting. Japanese woodblock prints and Dutch genre paintings influenced him.
Van Gogh was a prolific artist who created 860 paintings during his career, many of which did not sell well. After a disagreement with the artist Paul Gaugin, he famously hacked off his own ear.
In the psychiatric hospital of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, the artist created his famous Starry Night painting. Van Gogh tragically committed suicide at the age of 37.
Famous Van Gogh paintings: The Starry Night, Bedroom in Arles, Irises, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, The Night Café.