Dare I Say It: Greatest Painters of All Time?!

18 Sep 2012

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 ten. But in the spirit of our latest special-issue magazine, The 75 Greatest Artists of All Time, I wanted to assess all of 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 Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Valley by Thomas Hart Benton, 1934, oil and tempera on canvas mounted on aluminum panel.
The Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Valley
by Thomas Hart Benton, 1934, oil and tempera
on canvas mounted on aluminum panel.
It was tough!  I definitely realize that 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--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.

Sargent--He made me realize how much there is to the action of painting.

Whistler--For his sense of atmosphere.

Frida Kahlo--Because of the confessional and personal symbolism in her art.

Hopper--He captured a sense of time and the human emotion that seemed to suffuse that time like no other artist has been able to replicate.

The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo, 1939, oil on canvas, 67 x 67.
The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo, 1939,
oil on canvas, 67 x 67.
Lucian Freud--As a contemporary artist, he showed that painting can still be taken into uncharted territory.

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--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.

Well? What do you think? I showed you my list and now I want see yours. Leave a comment and gimme ten, twenty, oh, a hundred (if you are so inclined!) of your top artists. And then see how your list matches up with that of our editors by getting your hands on The 75 Greatest Artists of All Time. Enjoy!


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on 19 Sep 2012 6:00 AM

Picasso

Rembrandt

Leonardo

Masaccio

Tiziano

Cezanne

Van Gogh

Monet

Caravaggio

And here's the odd one out:  Charles M, Russell

amandolin wrote
on 19 Sep 2012 8:15 AM

My top 5:

Caravaggio

J M W Turner (fav painting is "The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons")

Van Gogh

Monet

and

Filippino Lippi (mainly b/c I spent close to a whole semester studying his "The Holy Family with John the Baptist and St. Margaret" tondo in college; it's still one of my favorite paintings, even though I'm not Christian)

on 19 Sep 2012 8:36 AM

-Miguel Ángel

-Da Vinci

-Tintoretto

-Rafael

-Klimt

-Toulouse- Lautrec

-Dalí

-Rembrandt

-Tiziano

-Picasso

And ten more...

-Boucher

-Bouguereau

-Freud

-Rubens

-Ingres

-Boticelli

-Velázquez

-Vermeer

-Van Gogh

-Miró

on 19 Sep 2012 8:56 AM

These are all great artists...don't know if I can limit the number to 75.

I haven't seen the entire list but I hope that Thomas Kincaid is not on this list. These are some of my favorite painters. I also have favorite sculptors and ceramic artists. That list would be h.u.g.e.

Rosa Bonheur

Gustave Courbet

Lascaux Cave painters, France

J.M.W. Turner

Artemesia Gentileschi

Franz Marc

Jacob Lawrence

Gerard ter Borch

Jan Vermeer

Giotto di Bondone

pjsart wrote
on 19 Sep 2012 9:38 AM

Michaelangelo

da Vinci

Picasso

Wood

Botero

Monet

Close

Botticelli

Bosch

van Gogh

on 19 Sep 2012 12:47 PM

Rembrandt

Vermeer (not on any other list???)

Magritte (see above comment)

Da Vinci

Michaelangelo

Monet

Bosch

Carravagio

Picasso

on 19 Sep 2012 12:55 PM

Hi Courtney !

Nice try on the top ten artists.  Of course you are wrong!

Here is my list (at least for this week!)

Rembrandt                            Hopper

Vermeer                                 Gustave Caillebotte

Chardin                                  Tom Thomson

Constable                              George Bellows

Winslow Homer                    Edward Brian Seago

wforward wrote
on 19 Sep 2012 1:09 PM

Leonardo

Michelangelo

Caravaggio

Velazquez

Rembrandt

Vermeer

Rubens

Sargent

Van Gogh

Gerhard Richter

and one more: Norman Rockwell - a vastly underrated artist

douggillette wrote
on 19 Sep 2012 1:12 PM

I'd like to add Maxfield Parrish and Andrew Wyeth

KCV16 wrote
on 19 Sep 2012 2:33 PM

Dali

Rembrandt

Van Gogh

Vermeer

Monet

Sisley

Those guys that painted the tombs in the Valley of the dead in Egypte

Those guys that painted at Lascaux

Renoir

Picasso

Kandinsky

Mondriaan

Rubens

Frans Hals

Caravaggio

El Greco

Titian

Boticelli

Michelangelo

Not a complete list but stille

KCV16 wrote
on 19 Sep 2012 2:35 PM

Dali

Rembrandt

Van Gogh

Vermeer

Monet

Sisley

Those guys that painted the tombs in the Valley of the dead in Egypte

Those guys that painted at Lascaux

Renoir

Picasso

Kandinsky

Mondriaan

Rubens

Frans Hals

Caravaggio

El Greco

Titian

Boticelli

Michelangelo

Not a complete list but stille

nyi nyi aung wrote
on 19 Sep 2012 7:06 PM

I like many painters east and west.I think more than 75,theirs paint look great for me,and all are my heros.From west,MICHELANGELO,VANGHO,MATTISE,RANIOR,RAMBRANT,WINSLOW HOMMER,MONET,GAUGUIN,NORMAN ROCKWELL,PAUL CEZANNE..

From east,JIA LU,WPM,KYI MYINT SAW,MIN WAI AUNG.These are some of my heros, many others are left in this.

sinewaves wrote
on 20 Sep 2012 6:07 AM

Mark Rothko

Leon Golub

Caravaggio

David

Turner

Okada

Basquiat

Freud

Hockney

Rivera

Fairfield Porter

I mean, if we're talking about painters broke ground in the medium and changed things, changed art and transformed what a painting could do  -  This is a good list.  While most everyone else regurgitates OLD masters from 200 years ago.  Not that those guys weren't "great" but I think it's time to move forward.

clairerem wrote
on 20 Sep 2012 12:58 PM

I wonder if Courtney or the commenter "sinewaves" might give the full name for the artist Okada, as there are several.

Long Island wrote
on 20 Sep 2012 3:33 PM

Hello Courtney,

I love your column, you are so insightful and open. Thank you  for sharing your love of making art.

My top artist is Chagall, I love his dream and memory work, and I love his flowing compositions.

Marcdl wrote
on 21 Sep 2012 11:33 AM

Maybe I could be pointed out to be a little chauvinist, but honestly, I'm not :-)

From Belgium (like I am):

Magritte

Paul Delvaux - love his ladies...

Van Eyck brothers, with their great masterpiece, now in restauration ( www.inyourpocket.com/.../Het-Lam-Gods_72687 f)

And the other masters:

El Greco

Velazquez

Pablo Picasso

Dali - love his style

Degas

Boticelli

Botero

Monet

Ah, I give up. Too many to write down. But I'm not fund of Van Gogh, I tried to like his stuff, but even in real life (in Paris) they couldn't warm me.

cooper2 wrote
on 22 Sep 2012 10:17 AM

-wondering how many of us change our lists daily-

-from then

Hopper

Renoir

Morisot

Matisse

Vlaminck

Manet

-from now

Macpherson

Burdick

Tankersley

Sponberg

Jurick

-oh wait, was that eleven?!

Jo Murray wrote
on 22 Sep 2012 12:21 PM

I agree with everyone...it is impossible to limit a list of great artists.  There are so many groundbreaking painters.  As an Aussie I would have to list some favourites from this side of the world.

Brett Whitely - for his purity of line, and personal vision.

Fred Williams - for his interpretation of the Australian landscape.

Arthur Boyd - for his classical references.

John Olsen - a groundbreaker in technique, he gets to the 'essence' of a subject.

on 22 Sep 2012 1:56 PM

My personal feel is that, there are so many great masters to list,  not to consider the good comment that " Sinewaves" mentions , - we have many great living masters of the arts among us today to look at also. I like to feel the engery of today along with the past.  It is us living today the people in the future will be looking at and enjoying also.   Learn from the past and create for the future in your own style.    

-W.P.-

.

on 22 Sep 2012 1:56 PM

My personal feel is that, there are so many great masters to list,  not to consider the good comment that " Sinewaves" mentions , - we have many great living masters of the arts among us today to look at also. I like to feel the engery of today along with the past.  It is us living today the people in the future will be looking at and enjoying also.   Learn from the past and create for the future in your own style.    

-W.P.-

.

artgirl715 wrote
on 23 Sep 2012 7:05 PM

My personal favorites are Matisse, Turner, Klimt, Chagall, Renoir, Toulouse Lautrec, Monet and Romare Bearden.  But of course, any list of the greatest artists of all times must include Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Picasso, Van Gogh and  Rembrant

Alina Santos wrote
on 23 Sep 2012 8:18 PM

TopTen for me:Amarna Artists,DaVinci,Michaeangelo,Van Goh,Monet,Caravaggio,Boticcelli,Goya,Picasso,Okeeffe

Alina Santos wrote
on 23 Sep 2012 8:18 PM

TopTen for me:Amarna Artists,DaVinci,Michaeangelo,Van Goh,Monet,Caravaggio,Boticcelli,Goya,Picasso,Okeeffe

Artist10 wrote
on 25 Sep 2012 8:40 AM

-Rafael

-Klimt

-Tiziano

-Toulouse- Lautrec

-Dalí

-Rembrandt

www.stardustplanets.com

Tommyboy59 wrote
on 13 Mar 2014 12:33 PM

Why is it that when someone asks for a list of "Great" artist, artist that are recognized commercially (but not critically) are never included. I saw one person list Norman Rockwell as one of their top ten artist. Why isn't Elvgren, or Petty, or Vargas recognized for their treatment of the female form? We are asked to accept Jackson Pollack flinging paint at a canvas while in a drunken, drug induced stupor as art, yet pin up artist are shoved into a corner of being labeled....Illustrators (not artist). The care and emotion that moved a country to buy War Bonds with his Four Freedoms series should put Rockwell at the top of everyone's list. Fortune 100 companies think enough of Mark Fredrickson's work to promote their goods and services that he is constant demand, yet he will probably never be asked to show at the MET. David Uhl and Scott Jacobson bring the world of motorcycles to life, but no mention of this fine practitioners. Maybe someday the art world will listen to it's own rhetoric and look upon these "Artist" with an open mind. Maybe one day these artist will be given credit for their care to anatomical correctness, presentation, craftsmanship, layout, and adherence to the discipline of rendering the figure in the technique of the old masters, Until then, I will follow these titans of the brush and enjoy the beauty they bring to the canvas.

Tommyboy59 wrote
on 13 Mar 2014 12:34 PM

Why is it that when someone asks for a list of "Great" artist, artist that are recognized commercially (but not critically) are never included. I saw one person list Norman Rockwell as one of their top ten artist. Why isn't Elvgren, or Petty, or Vargas recognized for their treatment of the female form? We are asked to accept Jackson Pollack flinging paint at a canvas while in a drunken, drug induced stupor as art, yet pin up artist are shoved into a corner of being labeled....Illustrators (not artist). The care and emotion that moved a country to buy War Bonds with his Four Freedoms series should put Rockwell at the top of everyone's list. Fortune 100 companies think enough of Mark Fredrickson's work to promote their goods and services that he is constant demand, yet he will probably never be asked to show at the MET. David Uhl and Scott Jacobson bring the world of motorcycles to life, but no mention of this fine practitioners. Maybe someday the art world will listen to it's own rhetoric and look upon these "Artist" with an open mind. Maybe one day these artist will be given credit for their care to anatomical correctness, presentation, craftsmanship, layout, and adherence to the discipline of rendering the figure in the technique of the old masters, Until then, I will follow these titans of the brush and enjoy the beauty they bring to the canvas.

on 14 Mar 2014 3:10 AM

Love that you include Hopper,captivating; beyond words.  All mentioned by you and others, ditto. I am a Rembrandt fan.. Standing before the NightWatch ....epic.. Caravaggio moved me less in person, still stellar work. I've seen many of the art in person in various parts of the world... glorious moments... I might add, Diebenkorn ..for the blue period, #4,8,27.

And to the viewer who pointed out an artists' work disparaging (Kincaid) I really can think of something to gain from all work, K's work brings you to a warm love garden, so lighten up, and look to what the artist speaks...listen for their language, and learn. A Rockwell  speaks to the joys of simple life, & brings a smile, while Renoir takes us to a period of time, relish the moments... Van Gogh and Picasso, give an oddesy escape, love the ride! Some wow us, some take us so deep we must crawl away... #beinspired&inspire™ #babygrle

Denis Byrd wrote
on 14 Mar 2014 6:39 AM

John Singer Sargent

Caravaggio

Peter Paul Rubens

William Merritt Chase

Michelangelo

Leonardo

Edgar Payne

Bernini

JMW Turner

Rembrandt