Many of the greatest painters of all time are so famous that they are almost as recognizable as the most iconic celebrities of our current era. And, indeed, many of the historic painters listed below – like Dali and Picasso – were celebrities in their own era. Others of the great painters below helped to launch entirely new art movements, or fundamentally challenged the way we think about painting.
#1: Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) – If there is one towering figure of the Italian Renaissance that is known throughout the world, it’s Da Vinci. He is perhaps best known for his “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” paintings. Modern day audiences are probably most familiar with him due to the bestselling “Da Vinci Code” book (and the inevitable Hollywood film based on the book).
#2: Rembrandt (1606-1669) – There is perhaps no greater figure from the Dutch Golden Age of painting. Rembrandt is known for his portraits, self-portraits, landscapes and genre scenes.
‘Sunflowers' is back on view! The masterpiece was under examination, but now you can admire it in our museum again. pic.twitter.com/l5qJtpEjtb
— Van Gogh Museum (@vangoghmuseum) March 24, 2016
#3: Van Gogh (1853-1890) – Many are probably familiar with Van Gogh as the emotionally troubled artist who cut off part of his ear with a razor and committed suicide at the age of 37 due to mental illness and a life of poverty. But that’s just the fascinating back story of a painter who had an absolutely prolific output during his final years: more than 2,000 art works in a single decade, including 860 oil paintings. That’s 86 oil paintings per year – or a rate of nearly 1.5 paintings per week!
#4: Salvador Dali (1904-1989) – Dali was not only the founder of the Surrealist school of painting, he also was perhaps the modern template for the attention-seeking, eccentric artist who becomes a global celebrity. Once you’ve seen the melting clocks of his breathtaking “Persistence of Memory” painting, you’ve had an unforgettable look inside the mind of a true painter genius.
— The Dali Museum (@TheDali) March 29, 2016
#5: Claude Monet (1840-1926) – The world of French Impressionism had many masters, but perhaps none as talented and famous as Monet. There’s a reason why museum around the world know that any Monet show will be a guaranteed public blockbuster – the world just can’t get enough of his iconic Impressionist paintings.
#6: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) – Picasso is generally credited as being the founder of the Cubist movement, and his artwork is unmistakable. One of his most famous paintings – “Guernica” – has become a symbol of the modern anti-war movement.
#7: El Greco (1541-1614) – Known as “The Greek” during his lifetime, Domenikos Theotokopoulos was the most famous painter of the Spanish Renaissance. His painting style combined elements of Byzantine and Western art, and some have called him an artistic precursor to Expressionism and Cubism.
#8: Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) – The list of the great painters of all time can’t just include a list of dead white males, can it? Kahlo was arguably the greatest female painter of the 20th century, and was distinctive in many ways. Her folk art style, her use of surrealist and magic realist touches, and her full embrace of Mexican identity helped propel her into the mainstream. Even before Selma Hayek played her in the 2002 Hollywood movie “Frida,” Kahlo had become an icon for the LGBTQ and feminist movements.
For anyone looking to improve their oil painting technique, it’s well worth the time investment to explore the unique styles and approaches of these great painters and artists throughout history.