Top 10 Most Influential Visual Artists of All Time

Most influential artists of all time
There are a lot of lists out there that compile an opinionated view of the best visual artists of all time. This list is NOT another one of those.

Sure, some of the greatest artists of all time appear on this list, but this list is about influence. What kind of an influence has this particular artist had on other artists, on the development of art movements in history, and on visual art as a whole. Some on this list may surprise you, while others will not. Just keep in mind that this list is only my humble opinion.

The Most Influential Visual Artists

10. Rene Magritte (1898 – 1967) Rene Magritte has influenced numerous painters and musicians and even helped to influence the movement of Pop Art. He is a Belgian born Surrealist painter whose work aimed to challenge the visual perception experienced by the viewer.

One example of Magritte’s aim to challenge the viewer can be seen in the painting entitled “The Treachery of Images”. In this painting, a representational painting of a pipe is displayed above the phrase “This is not a pipe”. Of course it’s not a pipe, it’s a painting of a pipe. Some of the artists that Magritte has influenced include Andy Warhol, John Baldessari, and Jasper Johns.

9. Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906) Paul Cezanne has been labeled as the “Father of Modern Art”. How’s that for influence? Cezanne was a French Post-Impressionist painter that fit the transition from Impressionism to Cubism. Cezanne was interested in breaking objects down into basic forms and shapes and was particularly interested in how we perceive objects.

We see with two eyes, so essentially we see two separate images. Cezanne wanted to include this in his paintings. The likes of Picasso and Matisse site Cezanne as a direct influence on their painting styles.

8. Marcel Duchamp (1887 – 1968) Marcel Duchamp is a rather controversial pick in this list. However, it is my opinion that he was one of the most influential artists. Remember that this list is about influence only, not a judgment on the artworks themselves.

Although Marcel Duchamp’s body of artwork is not very large, the artwork he produced served as a catalyst for the avante-garde. His “ready-mades” produced much controversy but did force the art world to look deeper into what makes an artist an artist and specifically what makes art, art. He is credited as influencing the Surrealists, and his attitudes toward the “Art Establishment” of the time latter influenced the Pop Art movement.

7. Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890) You cannot talk about the most influential artists of all time without mentioning Vincent Van Gogh.  Van Gogh did not decide to become an artist until the end of his short life.  But in that short time, he created over 800 paintings.  

His grasp of color relationships and unique brush work has distinguished  him  as one of the most profound artists of all time.  Van Gogh’s influence continues today.  His work inspires Modern Impressionists around the world and because he is probably the most well-known artist from history, his works and legacy are introduced to young artists daily.

6. Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669) This Dutch painter and printmaker is credited as being the “first artist to create for art’s sake”.  Ironically, he is also perhaps the most prolific Biblical painter from history.  He is well known for his vast collections of work and his notable portraits.  

Many of which were self portraits.  Rembrandt has had a vast influence on a variety of Genre.  Many portrait artists will site Rembrandt as an influence on their composition and brushstroke work. Rembrandt influenced many painters of the Romantic period, and Georges Seurat has noted Rembrandt as a notable influence on his work.

5. Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) Monet is recognized as the founder of Impressionism with his painting entitled “Impression-Sunrise”.  Impressionism places an emphasis on loose brushstrokes and the optical perceptions of color.  The Impressionist movement, which included artists such as Renoir, Manet, and Seurat , went on to influence the likes of Van Gogh and many abstract artists there after.

4. Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519)  No list of influential artists would be complete without mention of Leonardo Da Vinci.  Da Vinci was a man of “many hats”, but is perhaps best known for creating the most famous painting of all, The “Mona Lisa”.  

It could be argued that Leonardo Da Vinci could be one of the most influential people of all time.  Besides his contemporaries, Da Vinci has influenced countless painters and artists throughout history.

3. Titian (1480 – 1576)  Titian is one of the most important Italian artists to ever have lived.  Most of his paintings featured scenes of  the religious, but were painted with a dramatic attention to detail.  Countless artists have been influenced by Titian, the most notable of the list being El Greco.

2. Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) Michelangelo, a true artist-(sculptor and painter) has influenced both painters and sculptors throughout history.  Michelangelo is best known for his “David” and the famed Sistine Chapel frescos. His works has influenced many, most notable his Renaissance contemporaries and Artists such as Raphael.

1. Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) The most influential artist of all time is Pablo Picasso.  Picasso, the co-founder of Cubism, has transformed the world of art.  

A prodigy of artistic skill, Picasso changed the way artists approach a canvas.  Cubism opened the door to the world of Abstraction and a new way of seeing.  Picasso is credited to influencing artists such as Salvador Dali and Paul Klee, among countless others.

Remember that this list is my opinion only.  I’m sure that I have left others off of the list that many may find worthy.

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Lesson Discussion

  1. How can Warhol be excluded from this list? Even though he may have been partially influenced by Magritte, his own influence exceeds Magritte’s by kilometers.

  2. I’m deeply influenced by the work of fellow Aussie ‘Bec winnel’. Her work is just incredible and she’s definitely someone I look up to.

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