Even writing the words “Top 10 painters of all time” makes me cringe a little bit because … really? Really? I find it a herculean task to narrow a list down to the best 100 oil painting artists of all time, let alone just 10.
However, I wanted to look back and reflect on the artists — particularly painters of the past, in this case — and artworks that have inspired me and decide who I would put on the hallowed walls of my own art hall of fame.
The 10 Best Painters of All Time … Well, According to Me
It was tough! I definitely realize I have a few biases, but it was a good exercise and helped me discover what kind of oil on canvas works I most admire and what oil painting techniques and methods I most revere.
Remember, this list is particular to me and my ideas about painting, not a universal standard. Here, then, are my top 10 painters of all time, in no particular order, along with a little bit about why they are my picks.
Michelangelo (Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni). The artist that opened my eyes to art! He made the human figure powerful, sensual and an artistic pinnacle.
Odilon Redon. For colors that are beyond vibrant, and narratives that are like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
John Singer Sargent. He made me realize how much there is to the action of painting.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler. For his sense of atmosphere.
Frida Kahlo. Because of the confessional and personal symbolism in her art.
Edward Hopper. He captured a sense of time and the human emotion which seemed to suffuse that time like no other artist has been able to replicate.
Lucian Freud. As a contemporary artist, he showed painting can still be taken into uncharted territory.
Pablo Picasso. He broke with so many practices of the past and developed a new way of seeing that paved the way for modern art.
Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio). For his searing lights and rich shadows, and because he painted people with dirty fingernails and grimy feet.
Thomas Hart Benton. His work made me see how art is such a valid part of history. It can go beyond the dry timeline of dates to capture what isn’t in the history books — the workers, small towns and tall tales of people and their lives — and encompassing the zeitgeist of it all with an image.
If you are interested in the life and times of another master artist who is certain to be on many “great artist” lists, then gift yourself with Ever Yours: The Essential Letters of Vincent Van Gogh.
This book offers an incredible look into van Gogh’s mindset, biography and intimate moments from the artist himself. What an exceptional way to understand an artist we revere so much.
Well? What do you think? I showed you my list, now I want you to show me yours. Leave a comment and gimme one or two, maybe 10, 20, oh, 100 (if you are so inclined!) of your top artists. I am looking forward to reading all your favorites!