Most Influential Artists of All Time: Artists Who Could Make the List
By: Jose Rivas
Da Vinci, Van Gogh and Michelangelo are known, but we want to add some more artists that are not as popular to the list.
We’ve heard of some: Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Warhol, etc. All of which are great artists. Today, however, we’re going to try and make a list of influential artists of all time, including some that you may not have heard about.
Most Influential Artists of All Time: • Claude Monet: 1840 – 1926
From a young age, his father wanted him to work in the family’s grocery store. But Monet wanted to become an artist.
He is one of the most influential artists of all time regarding impressionism. He’s the father of this art style. In fact, the term impressionism comes from one of his paintings: Impression, Sunrise.
He joined the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria two years earlier in his life. After that, he contracted typhoid, and his aunt intervened to get him out of the army if he agreed to complete an art course at a university.
He then turned into a student in Charles Gleyre, Paris. He met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, and Alfred Sisley here. They shared thoughts about art, painting, light, and rapid brushstrokes. Conversations that materialized into what we know as Impressionism.
Monet’s Camille, or The Woman in the Green Dress (La Femme à la Robe Verte), was one of the works that gave him recognition; it featured his wife, Camille Doncieux. She was one of the main inspirations for his works.
He was fond of painting controlled nature, such as his garden. Although he also painted across the banks of the Seine
Monet died of lung cancer on December 5, 1926, at the age of 86.
He talked about this painting and described it as a circular room with walls filled with water. Displaying the calmness and silence that the water reflects on the display full of flowers. This is talked about as one of the greatest achievements of Monet.
• Vincent van Gogh: 1853 – 1890: One of the most recognized and most influential artists of all time.
Dutch painter and one of the most influential artists of all time in post-impressionism.
The colour, brushwork, and contoured form, heavily influenced the current generation of expressionists. Unfortunately, he was known only after his death when his paintings were auctioned for very high sums.
Not so early in his life, Van Gogh decided that his mission on earth was to bring consolation through art. However, his career only lasted around 10 years. Vincent worked hard but realized how hard it was going to be to self-train himself. As a solution, he visited museums and met with other painters to expand his knowledge.
Van Gogh then moved to Nuenen, where his art became bolder and more assured. He painted about life, landscape, and figure, all from the point of view of the daily life of peasants.
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Probably his most known piece of work. It represents an interpretation of Van Gogh’s view of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. “Starry Night” is the only nocturnal study of the view, although he made more pieces about the same place.
• Pablo Picasso: 1881 – 1973
The Spaniard is one of the most influential artists of all time regarding cubism, if not the most influential.
Pablo became his father’s pupil early on in his life, around the age of 10. He learned how to experiment with what he learned and to express himself through different means.
Picasso entered the Royal Academy of San Fernando. But found the teaching useless. He started watching the surrounding life, in cafés, streets, bars, until he discovered Spanish painting.
During 1909 and 1912, Picasso worked along with Braque, and they developed analytical cubism. These were early cubist paintings that critics and viewers misunderstood. None of both wanted to move to abstraction in their cubist pieces. However, they had to accept the inconsistencies in their work, such as different points of view, axes, and light sources in the same picture.
This is one of his most known pieces and shows the tragedies and suffering that war brings upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. This painting has been studied and known worldwide, becoming a perpetual reminder of the motives on it, as well as an anti-war symbol and an embodiment of peace.
• Frida Kahlo: 1907 – 1954
The artist had feeble health in her childhood. She contracted polio when she was 6 years old and had to be in bed for nine months. Frida limped after recovering from it and wore long skirts to cover her legs for the rest of her life.
She attended the National Preparatory School in Mexico City. The painter was outspoken and brave amongst her classmates. Here, she met her future husband, Diego Rivera, for the first time.
She travelled with one of his peers on a bus when the bus they were in had a tragic accident. It crashed into a streetcar, and Frida was severely injured. She had to wear a cast all around her body for three months. She then started painting and finished her first self-portrait.
With time, she added more realistic and surrealistic components to her painting style. Frida expressed her physical challenges through her work. During that time, she had a few surgeries and had to wear special corsets to protect her back spine. She seeks lots of medical treatment for her chronic pain, but nothing really worked.
Despite her health issues, she was always active within political movements. One week after her 47th birthday, she passed away at her Bule House. Frida died of a pulmonary embolism.
The Broken Column
One of her most known pieces, here, she shows herself constrained by a cage-like body brace. There’s an exposure that shows a broken column instead of her spine. The column appears to be on the verge of collapsing. In her face, metal nails are piercing Frida. Her breasts, arms, torso, and upper thigh, hidden behind a swath of cloth. All of this in an open landscape, exposing herself in more than one way.
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• Leonardo da Vinci: 1452 – 1519
Italian painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect, and engineer. Through his skill and intelligence, one of the most influential artists of all time epitomized the renaissance humanist ideal. There have been notebooks found that reveal mechanical inventions and ideas that were ahead of their time.
In school, Leonardo never seriously studied Latin. He also did not like advanced geometry and arithmetic, at least not until he was 30 years old when he began studying mathematics to communicate his ideas better.
In Verrocchio’s workshop, Da Vinci received multifaceted training. This training included: painting, sculpture, and technical-mechanical arts.
With his gracious and reserved personality and elegant bearing, Leonardo was well-received in court circles which gave him the title of painter and engineer of the duke.
Leonardo spent the last three years of his life in the small residence of Cloux.
It’s hard to find someone that hasn’t heard about it. The Mona Lisa exemplifies Leonardo’s contribution to oil painting, namely his mastery of sfumato.
This painting demonstrates the smooth and barely perceptible transitions from one colour to another. The general impression created by the painting is one of serenity and mystery.
• Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun: 1755 – 1842
She had to be included in a list of the most influential artists of all time. As a French painter, she was also one of the most successful women artists, particularly noted for her portraits of women. This was very unusual for her time.
In 1779, she received a life-changing opportunity. Queen Marie-Antoinette ordered a commissioned portrait, which led Élisabeth to travel to Versailles. Both women became friends, and eventually, in the subsequent years, Vigée-Lebrun painted around 20 portraits of Marie-Antoinette in a great variety of poses and costumes.
In only 4 years afterwards, in 1783, because of her friendship with the queen and her skilled paintings, Vigée-Lebrun entered the Royal Academy. In her era, she was one of the most technically fluent portraitists. She had some very particular traits in her works, their freshness, charm, and sensitivity.
All along with her career, it is said that she made around 900 pictures, including some 600 portraits and about 200 landscapes.
She made a name for herself for her unusually sympathetic portraits of beautiful women of high rank, especially the Queen. Only one-sixth of the works were male, but their portraits confirm that she was equally effective with men.
• Georgia O’Keeffe: 1887 – 1986
O’Keeffe was an American painter who was among the most influential artists of all time in Modernism. She made herself known for her large-format paintings of natural forms and the close-ups of these images, especially flowers and bones.
Early on in her life, O’Keeffe decided she would become a professional artist after she graduated from high school. And shortly, she became proficient at imitative realism.
With time, she believed that she would not provide her with the distinction she was looking for through imitative realism. After this realization, she abandoned her dream and took a job as a commercial artist in Chicago.
In New York, in 1918, O’Keeffe continued working on abstract art. One year later, she also had begun to paint precisely delineated, recognizable forms.
An important part of her life was that she was a member of the National Woman’s Party, the most radical feminist organization of the early 20th century in the United States. Following the movement’s ideology, she objected strongly to gendered interpretations of her work and the sexualized public image that some had created.
She never abandoned abstract modernism, although she did shift the emphasis of her work to redefine herself as a painter of recognizable forms, by which she remains best known today.
In her later years, she suffered from macular degeneration and began to lose her eyesight. She then painted her last piece unassisted in 1972; however, her need to create didn’t falter. With the help of assistants, she continued to make art, and she wrote the bestselling book Georgia O’Keeffe (1976).
Elizabeth Arden commissioned the work to go in the Gymnasium Moderne of her Fifth Avenue Salon, New York City.
Georgia O’Keeffe would take flowers from her garden from time to time and use them for these still-life depictions. This was not new at all; however, Georgia is one of the most influential artists of all time because of the perspective she added to her works. She used to zoom in onto just one or two single flower heads, allowing their individual detail to show through.
• Rene Magritte: 1898-1967
René Magritte was a Belgian artist known for his work with surrealism as well as his thought-provoking images. The artist began to paint in the surrealist style in the 1920s and became known for his witty images, simple graphics, and everyday objects.
He worked at a wallpaper factory, from where he moved to work as a freelance poster and advertisement designer. Rene used familiar, mundane objects such as bowler hats, pipes, and rocks in unusual contexts and juxtapositions. All of this was on purpose, to evoke mystery and madness and challenge human perception assumptions.
With early works such as The Lost Jockey and The Menaced Assassin, he became one of the most influential artists of all time in Belgium and found himself at the centre of its nascent surrealist movement.
Even though he had a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in 1963, he travelled to New York City for a 1965 retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art. During this time, he tried experimenting with other types of expression, making a series of short films that featured his wife, Georgette, and experimenting with sculpture.
The Son of Man
The painting shows a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat standing in front of a short wall. A green apple largely obscures the man’s face. However, the man’s eyes can be seen peeking over the edge of the apple.
Magritte referred to the painting and said that it’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see.
• Marcel Duchamp: 1887-1968
Marcel grew up in Normandy in a family of artists. One of his earliest artworks, Landscape at Blainville (1902), painted at age 15, reflected his love for Monet.
He studied several art styles such as fauvism, cubism, and impressionism. He showed interest in new approaches to colour and structure as well. Mostly, he related to the cubist notion of reordering reality rather than simply representing it.
Duchamp usually gravitated towards avant-garde notions of the artist as an anti-academic. His insistence that art should be an expression of the mind rather than the eye or the hand spoke to minimalists and conceptual artists alike.
Later in his career, his interest in the themes and exploration of sexual identity and desire would lead Duchamp into Dadaism and surrealism. Another source of inspiration was writers. Duchamp said that he “felt that as a painter it was much better to be influenced by a writer than by another painter.”
Interpretations may vary. However, by placing a wheel on top of a stool, attempted to reference the elevation of classical art by formal art institutions. The inverted bicycle wheel tries to represent the heroic figures often portrayed in classical art. While the stool represents the pedestal on which famous statues and sculptures usually stand.
The piece shows Duchamp’s attitude towards the rules and norms of artistic tradition typically worshipped by European and American culture.
• Augusta Savage: 1892-1939
She started creating art as a child by using the natural clay found in her hometown. Augusta made a name for herself as a sculptor after attending Cooper Union in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance and gained several awards in fellowships to study abroad. Savage later served as a director for the Harlem Community Center and created the monumental work The Harp for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. She spent most of her later years in Saugerties, New York, before her death from cancer in 1962.
Sometimes, she skipped school to sculpt animals and other small figures. But her father, a minister, didn’t approve of these creations and did whatever he could to stop her. The artist once said that her father “almost whipped all the art out of me.”
The first time they moved, she experienced a difficulty, lack of clay. However, Savage eventually got some materials from a local potter and created a group of figures that she entered at a local county fair. These won a prize and, along the way, the support of the fair’s superintendent.
Savage attended Cooper Union in New York City, where she applied to a summer program to study in France but was rejected because of her race. This was something that influenced her work from that point on. She took the rejection as a call to action and sent letters to the local media about the program’s discriminatory practices. Her story made headlines in many newspapers. However, all of this attention was not enough to change the result of her application.
As she moved on with her career, Savage started to make a name for herself as a portrait sculptor. She was one of the most influential artists of all time inside the Harlem renaissance, a pre-eminent African American literary and artistic movement.
The Harp was a sculpture that showed the consolidation of twelve African Americans that make up this structure and contribute to a surrounding community and togetherness.
To the World’s Fair, the folds on the robes adorned on the performers resembled strings on a harp and renamed Savage’s work as so. The exaggerated heights represent the heights that can be reached following liberation.
The organization destroyed the piece soon after it was open to the public due to the lack of financial support. Following the destruction of The Harp, smaller versions of the piece were constructed and bronzed.
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Tags: Artists, Augusta Savage, Claude Monet, Da Vinci, Elisebeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jimson Weed, Leonardo da Vinci, Marcel Duchamp, Michelangelo, Most Influential Artists of all time, Pablo Picasso, Rene Magritte, Vincent Van Gogh,