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20 Famous Artists Everyone Should Know About, From Da Vinci To Frida Kahlo


Museums and textbooks are full of names of artists who have left their mark on history. However, some names continue to stand out above the rest. Whether through their distinctive style, their involvement in a seminal art movement, or their eccentric lives, these artists have achieved astonishing fame. And although today these creators are part of popular culture, many of them were not recognized for their talent until decades after their deaths.

So, who are the most famous artists? Although you can probably guess the names of some, some of them may be new to you. Renaissance masters Michelangelo and Leonardo, for example, are two creative titans whose names are synonymous with art and genius. Likewise, Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo are two of the most important women artists of the 20th century.

Here we will take a look at the names and lives of 20 of the most famous artists in the world.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and in no way represents the most talented or deserving artists. Unfortunately, art has excluded women and artists of color throughout history, but we’re hopeful that will change in our generation. This list is just a reflection of the names and faces that have risen to fame, at least so far.

The 20 most famous artists of all time

Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510)

The Florentine artist Sandro Botticelli was one of the most prolific painters of the 15th century. Although his work includes secular portraiture and biblical representations, he is best known for his large-scale mythological scenes. In fact, he was one of the first artists of this time to recover the classical theme and adopt his iconography.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)

Leonardo da Vinci was the quintessential Renaissance man. He not only left behind a collection of notebooks filled with scientific observations and illustrations, but also an important legacy of works of art spanning different media. His mastery of certain oil painting techniques such as shading and chiaroscuro can be seen in his portraits, such as the Mona Lisa and The Lady with the Ermine . The first remains one of the most visited works of art in the world.

Michelangelo (1475–1564)

Master of painting, sculpture and architecture, Michelangelo Buonarroti (known in Spanish as Miguel Angel) is one of the most exemplary figures of the Italian Renaissance. His nickname was Il Divino (‘The Divine’), showing how beloved he was. Furthermore, his incredible success is significant at a time when most artists did not enjoy wealth or fame in life. In fact, Michelangelo was the first Western artist to have a life biography.

Caravaggio (1571–1610)

Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi—better known as Caravaggio — had a passionate and turbulent life. His artistic legacy is just as evocative in terms of style and technique. Never before had an artist used “normal” people as models for paintings of Biblical characters. In addition, his masterful use of extreme light and darkness, or gloom , added unprecedented psychological drama to his paintings.

Rembrandt (1606–1669)

The Dutch artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is considered one of the most important and influential figures in the history of art. An expert painter, printmaker and draftsman, his extensive body of work continues to fascinate art lovers around the world. For this reason he is also known as “great master”, a label reserved for the most prolific European painters before the 19th century.

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675)

Johannes Vermeer devoted himself to exploring the everyday moments of the Dutch Golden Age, often painting scenes of domestic life. He was nicknamed the “master of light” for the masterful way in which he painted natural light on skin, fabric and other objects. Although he was a relatively successful painter during his lifetime, only 34 paintings are attributed to him today. Yet this precious portfolio reveals the artist’s exceptional understanding of color, composition, and realism.

Eugene Delacroix (1798–1863)

A master of colour, movement and drama, Eugene Delacroix was a leader of Romanticism and an influential figure in the work of the Impressionists. Delacroix’s work spanned contemporary events, mythological scenes, Orientalism, and portraiture.

Claude Monet (1840–1926)

Portrait of Claude Monet by Nadar, 1899 (Photo: public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

With a unique style and pioneering approach to painting, Claude Monet is renowned as an influential figure in Impressionism. With his distinctive mottled brushwork, characteristic range of tones, and attention to light, the French artist created compositions that captured the essence of movement.

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)

Although Vincent van Gogh became incredibly famous after his death, his life was not as peaceful as his colorful canvases suggest. From financial difficulties to his deteriorating mental health, Van Gogh faced many personal problems during his career. Despite this, he left a dazzling body of work—including landscapes, portraits, and urban scenes—with an iconic style that almost anyone can recognize today.

Gustav Klimt (1862–1918)

Leader of the artistic movement of the Vienna Secession (associated with art nouveau ), the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt left behind thousands of drawings and a vast portfolio of paintings. He is best known for the collection of shiny, gilded works that he produced during his golden phase.

Henri Matisse (1869–1954)

Considered the greatest colorist of the 20th century and a revolutionary artist who helped define modern art, French artist Henri Matisse started out as a Post-Impressionist. Then, in 1904, he led the Fauvist movement, which in French means “wild beasts.” The Fauves were a group of modern artists who favored bright, pure colors and expressive brushwork over realism.

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)

With a career that spanned 79 years and included success in painting, sculpture, ceramics, poetry, set design, and writing, Pablo Picasso is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. While most artists are known for an iconic style, Picasso’s changed several times during his life. Some of the most characteristic periods of him are the blue period, cubism and surrealism.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986)

American artist Georgia O’Keeffe helped usher in the American modernism movement with a style that favors interpretation of subject matter rather than strict realism. Likewise, she is best known for her abstract depictions of colorful flowers and landscapes of the American Southwest.

René Magritte (1898–1967)

As a pioneer of the Surrealist movement, Rene Magritte created works that celebrated the subconscious mind and the world of dreams. Throughout his long career, he produced paintings that blurred the line between reality and fantasy and invited the viewer to question what he thought he knew.

Salvador Dali (1904–1989)

Few artists are as visually iconic as Salvador Dali. Although he explored various media throughout his life, including sculpture, printmaking, fashion, writing, and even film, Dali’s paintings stand out as especially momentous. In particular, the artist developed his own visual language to represent his inner world, his dreams and hallucinations.

Frida Kahlo (1907–1954)

As one of the most famous female painters of all time, the legacy of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo lives on today. Her passionate and tumultuous life greatly influenced the subject matter of her paintings. She is especially known for her self-portraits, which address themes such as identity, suffering, and the human body.

Jackson Pollock (1912–1956)

American artist Jackson Pollock is considered one of the greatest painters of the abstract expressionist movement. His iconic drip paintings—which he began producing in the late 1940s—captured the art world. Pollock redefined line, color, and pictorial space by finding a whole new way to fill a canvas.

Andy Warhol (1928–1987)

American artist Andy Warhol was a pivotal figure in the Pop Art movement of the 1950s. Although Warhol worked in a myriad of mediums, he is most famous for his silkscreen prints and polychrome paintings. His works defined many of the movement’s most distinctive features: bold, contemporary imagery, a bright color palette, and a repetitive aesthetic inspired by mass production.

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988)

At the end of the 20th century, Jean-Michel Basquiat turned the world of contemporary art on its head. The young artist, who lived in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, was a pioneer and helped popularize street art by bringing graffiti to the galleries, a monumental move that brought glitz and glamor to the art world. was accessible to everyone.

Yayoi Kusama (1929–present)

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is considered the most famous living female artist. Throughout her illustrious career, she has developed her own approach to her art. Characterized by her use of polka dots, bold color palettes, and organic shapes, her aesthetic is perhaps best typified by her pumpkins, a collection of works that celebrate the “generous lack of pretense” of the vegetable.

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