17 of the greatest painters of all time

What is it exactly that makes art great? Is it talent, passion, vision, a combination, or something different? With art, the work’s value and greatness will naturally vary from person to person, but it’s undeniable that some painters have legacies that transcend time to change the world as a whole. 

Who are these painters, and what makes their works so revolutionary? From the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel to graffiti spray painted on brick walls, these 17 greatest painters of all times made their mark on history and touched the hearts and souls of millions. 

Any list of great artists will have a dash of personal opinion thrown in, but we’ve tried our best to craft a universal list of the 17 greatest painters of all time. So read on, and maybe discover a new painter that gives you that priceless creative spark!

Artemisia Gentileschi 

  • Full Name- Artemisia Gentileschi
  • Born- 1593, Died-1656
  • Most Famous Painting- Judith Slaying Holofernes 
  • Art Movement- Baroque 

In an era dominated by male painters, Artemisia Gentileschi rose above so many others to become one of the most celebrated painters in the 17th century, despite her gender. Her paintings were rich and dynamic.

She wasn’t afraid to show the gruesome side of artwork, as can be seen in the bloody Judith Slaying Holofernes. 

Judith Slaying Holofernes (Artemisia Gentileschi, Naples)

Artemisia was the daughter of Orazio Gentileschi, an accomplished painter in his own right. She found her fame early, her talents recognized by the age of 15. Later in life, she would work for Philip IV of Spain among other nobles. 

Artemisia continued to paint throughout her life, seeing great success, marrying, and having five children. 


  • Full Name- Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
  • Born- 1475 Died- 1564
  • Most Famous Painting- The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel  
  • Art Movement- Italian Renaissance 

Michelangelo did more than paint. One of the most famous artists of all time, Michelangelo was a sculptor, writer, and architect as well, but his most enduring legacy is that of a painter. 

His talents as a sculptor were what first garnered Michelangelo attention, specifically from his wealthy patron Lorenzo de’ Medici. In Rome, he spent decades sculpting a tomb for Pope Julius II, and in 1508, he began on his most famous project–the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. 

Carefully preserved, the Sistine Chapel ceiling can still be seen today and experienced in all its enormous, brilliantly colored glory. 

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel


  • Full Name- Oscar-Claude Monet
  • Born- 1840, Died- 1926
  • Most Famous Painting- The Water Lilies 
  • Art Movement- Impressionism 

Unlike some others on this list, Claude Monet did not come from a family of artists. Instead, his father was a grocer and Monet had to make his way into the art world on his talents alone. 

Luckily for Monet, there was no shortage of talent inside of him. 

Claude Monet would train under Renoir, and he would grow to become one of the most influential Impressionist paintings of all time. He specialized in landscape scenes, creating pieces such as his Water Lilies series and Sunrise. 

Water Lilies by Monet

Vincent Van Gogh 

  • Full Name- Vincent Willem Van Gogh
  • Born- 1853, Died-1890
  • Most Famous Painting- Starry Night  
  • Art Movement- Post-Impressionism

Vincent van Gogh’s fame has risen far beyond his paintings themselves. The difficult, fraught life of van Gogh despite his obvious brilliance, combined with his documented struggles with his mental health, make the Post-Impressionist resonate with many in modern times. 

But beyond his struggles, van Gogh’s paintings speak for themselves. While he’s one of the most well-known painters ever, he had very little success with his work when he was alive. Despite this, he continued to paint, using bold strokes and deep, compelling colors to create his masterpieces. 

Van Gogh’s famous Starry Night

These days, van Gogh’s works are everywhere–phone cases, computer backgrounds, and even immersive traveling art installations that submerge visitors in a world full of van Gogh’s paintings from corner to corner. If only he could see the impact that his work has made on the world. 

Pablo Picasso

  • Full Name-Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso
  • Born-1881, Died-1973
  • Most Famous Painting- Guernica 
  • Art Movement- Cubism 

There are prolific painters, and then there is Pablo Picasso. Picasso produced over 20,000 pieces of work over his lifetime–not just paintings, either, but etchings and sculptures as well. 

Known as the father of Cubism, Picasso wasn’t just the first prominent Cubist painter–he was the inventor. Picasso started with more standard styles, and this more expected type of painting can be seen in his early work. But as Picasso came into his own, his Cubist style began to take shape and would eventually become what defined him. 

Picasso’s Guernica

With an 80-year-long career and a swath of paintings that the general public can recognize on-site, Picasso is undoubtedly one of the most important artists of the 20th century. 

Frida Kahlo 

  • Full Name- Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón
  • Born-1907, Died-1954
  • Most Famous Painting- The Two Fridas 
  • Art Movement- Surrealism 

One of the first painters to bring the Mexican world of art to the attention of the world at large, Frida Kahlo became famous for her self-portraits and her unflinching portrayal of femininity, both beautiful and not. 

The Two Fridas

Frida Kahlo painted for herself first, and her audience second, and this can be seen in the clear emotion in her works. The colors she used were ferocious and strong, and within the beauty of her paintings, there was also grit.

Her experience of suffering through both polio and a terrible bus accident as a child first led her to painting and influenced it throughout her life. Combined with her turbulent love life with fellow artist Diego Rivera, these hardships made her work shine and is why she’s such a symbol of feminism even now. 

Leonardo da Vinci 

  • Full Name- Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci 
  • Born-1452, Died-1519
  • Most Famous Painting- Mona Lisa 
  • Art Movement- Italian Renaissance 

Not only is Leonardo da Vinci one of the greatest painters of all time, but his iconic work, Mona Lisa, might be the most famous single painting in the entire world. 

Da Vinci crafted his paintings with an almost obsessive detail, using his years studying anatomy and the human body to create paintings that were more lifelike than anything else being created at the time. 

The Mona Lisa

J.M.W Turner 

  • Full Name- Joseph Mallord William Turner 
  • Born-1775, Died-1851
  • Most Famous Painting- The Fighting Temeraire 
  • Art Movement- Romanticism 

Our first painter on the list from the Romantic period of art, J.M.W Turner spent his career mastering realism and light to produce some stunning, yet somber works. 

Turner painted with both oils and watercolors, and the realism that he was able to produce with the notoriously finicky watercolor medium was astounding. Some of his favorite subjects were ships upon the water, where he could show his mastery of light as it glittered off the waves. 

The Fighting Temeraire 

Jackson Pollock 

  • Full Name- Paul Jackson Pollock 
  • Born- 1912, Died- 1956
  • Most Famous Painting- Lavender Mist 
  • Art Movement- Abstract Expressionism 

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from J.W.M Turner is Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock. Pollock’s work was challenging, both for the art world and the general public, and that’s what made it so fascinating. 

He used strange techniques that he himself pioneered, like action painting and the drip technique. He would use his entire body while he painted to get the effect he desired. 

Lavender Mist

Jean-Michel Basquiat 

  • Full Name- Jean-Michel Basquiat 
  • Born- 1960, Died- 1988
  • Most Famous Painting- Untitled Skull 
  • Art Movement- Neo-expressionism 

One of the most modern, and most unique artists on our list is Jean-Michel Basquiat. Spending his youth living on the streets and practicing graffiti with the other teens his age, Basquiat’s street art would soon garner attention with professional artists. 

Basquiat’s work was intuitive, brash, and brightly colored. He specialized in self-portraits and artwork that feature important parts of African American history. As brilliant as he was, Basquiat died incredibly young, at just 27, from a heroin overdose. 

Untitled Skull

Andy Warhol 

  • Full Name- Andrew Warhola Jr.
  • Born-1928, Died-1987
  • Most Famous Painting- Campbell’s Soup Cans
  • Art Movement- Pop art 

And Warhol, an iconic American artist, was and still is the face of the Pop art movement. He was a huge presence in the club and fashion scene at his peak. His popularity was only increased by the inroads he made in the field of art mass production.

His most famous works featured everyday items like Campbell soup cans and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, and he was able to mass-produce them using silk screening. Warhol was shot in his own studio in 1968, but would survive and live till 1987, trying his hand at other forms of media like filmmaking. 

Campbell’s Soup Cans at MOMA

Peter Paul Rubens 

  • Full Name- Peter Paul Rubens 
  • Born- 1577, Died-1640
  • Most Famous Painting- The Elevation of the Cross 
  • Art Movement- Flemish Baroque 

Most famous for the voluptuous feminine figures he loved to include in his paintings, Peter Paul Ruben’s works were what inspired the creation of the term ‘Rubenesque’. But women weren’t the only subject he excelled in–in fact, his most influential painting, The Elevation of the Cross, showcased his passion for religious theming as well. 

One of the Baroque masters, Rubens was a master of color and movement, and he would end up becoming one of the most prolific artists of his era. 

The Elevation of the Cross 

Georgia O’Keeffe 

  • Full Name- Georgia Totto O’Keeffe 
  • Born- 1887, Died- 1986
  • Most Famous Painting-  Jimson Weed 
  • Art Movement- American Modernism 

Georgia O’Keeffe was an American Modernist painter who grew famous through her abstract, close-up paintings of flowers, and later, depictions of the New Mexico desert in which she lived. 

Her artwork, even when it featured subjects like bones, had an obvious feminine edge to it. She was celebrated for her use of color and the emotions her paintings would evoke, even when they were abstract in nature. 

Jimson Weed


  • Full Name- Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
  • Born- 1606,  Died- 1669
  • Most Famous Painting- The Night Watch 
  • Art Movement- Baroque 

Another Baroque master that ranks amongst the greatest painters of all time is Rembrandt. Renowned for his portraits and historical scenes, Rembrandt was known for being able to imbue even the most mundane scenes with importance. 

Rembrandt’s works were elevated and sensitive, rendering his human subjects like a light hard to find from any other Baroque painter. 

The Night Watch

Francisco Goya 

  • Full Name- Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes
  • Born- 1746, Died- 1828
  • Most Famous Painting- Saturn Devouring His Son
  • Art Movement- Romanticism 

In his early career, Francisco Goya’s works were more colorful and bright, similar to his Romantic era contemporaries. But as he aged, his paintings became darker and more ominous, touching on themes like human suffering, war, and loneliness. 

Some of his most notorious works were painted on the walls of his home in the last years of his life, fittingly called The Black Paintings. Pieces like Saturn Devouring His Son evoke thoughts of madness and violence, while also displaying Goya’s mastery of the art. 

Saturn Devouring His Son

Johannes Vermeer 

  • Full Name- Johannes Vermeer 
  • Born- 1632, Died-1675
  • Most Famous Painting- Girl with a Pearl Earring 
  • Art Movement- Baroque 

Most well-known for his work, Girl with a Pearl Earring, which inspired a film of the same name, Vermeer excelled at capturing the personality and depth of his subjects. His pieces were subtle and serene, capturing a sort of magic in his scenes of everyday life. 

Vermeer would go on to work for the Hague, but his true brilliance wouldn’t be realized until later after his passing. 

Girl with a Pearl Earring 

Salvador Dalí

  • Full Name- Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquess of Dalí of Púb
  • Born- 1904, Died- 1989
  • Most Famous Painting- The Persistence of Memory 
  • Art Movement- Surrealism 

Eccentric and groundbreaking, Salvador Dalí was a Spanish surrealist artist whose paintings shifted the way the world viewed painting forever. 

Salvador Dalí’s sometimes bizarre work, like the landscape full of melting clocks in The Persistence of Memory, echoed perfectly the man himself. Dalí’s work was imaginative and dreamlike, while demanding that the viewer look closer to find the symbolism within the painting itself. 

The Persistence of Memory 


“Frida Kahlo and her paintings” 


“Georgia O’Keeffe”



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