Beginning out as a commercial artist, he brought the ethos of promotion into fine art, even going so far as to say, “Making money is art.” Such attitudes blew away the existential declarations of Abstract Expressionism. Although he’s recognized for captions such as Campbell’s Soup, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley, his greatest invention was himself.
Pablo Picasso is implicitly synonymous with modern art, and it doesn’t hurt that he fits the generally held image of the fugitive genius whose goals are balanced by a taste for living big. He turned the field of art history with radical innovations that include college and Cubism, which destroyed the stranglehold of representational material matter on art, and set the rate for other 20th-century artists.
Van Gogh is known for being psychologically unstable, but his arts are among the most popular and most famous artists of all time. Van Gogh’s technique of painting with flurries of thick brushstrokes made up of vivid colours squeezed straight from the tube would inspire subsequent generations of artists.
The original Renaissance Man, Leonardo is known as a genius, not only for masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and The Lady with an Ermine but also for his designs of technologies (aircraft, tanks, automobile) that were five hundred years in the future.
Michelangelo was a triple threat: A painter (the Sistine Ceiling), a sculptor (the David and Pietà) and architect (St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome). Make that a quadruple warning since he also wrote poetry. Aside from the aforementioned Sistine Ceiling, St. Peter’s Basilica and Pietà, there was his tomb for Pope Julian II and the design for the Laurentian Library at San Lorenzo’s Church.
No artist is as intimately attached to the delights of colour as Henri Matisse. His work was all about twisted curves rooted in the ideas of symbolic art and was constantly concentrated on the beguiling satisfaction of colour and tone.
Hindered by addiction, self-doubt, and awkwardness as a conventional painter, Pollock transformed his faults in a short but intense period between 1947 and 1950 when he performed the drip ideas that connected his fame. Avoiding the easel to lay his paintings flat on the floor, he used house paint right from the can, throwing and dropping thin skeins of pigment that left behind a solid record of his movements.
I scream you scream we all scream for Munch’s The Scream, the Mona Lisa of anxiety. In 2012, a pastel variant of Edvard Munch’s iconic invocation of modern anxiety got a then-astronomical price of $120 million at auction. Munch’s career was more than just a single painting.
Perhaps the most famous artists amidst the Impressionists, Monet conquered the varying influences of light on the panorama by bright shards of colour produced as quickly painted strokes. Furthermore, his many thoughts of haystacks and other subjects anticipated the use of serial comparison in Pop Art and Minimalism.
The name René Magritte is widely recognized by art lovers and agnostics alike, and for good reason: He utterly transformed our expectations of what is real and what is not. When someone describes something as “surreal,” the chances are good that an image by Magritte pops into his or her head.
Dalí was effectively Warhol before there was a Warhol. Like Andy, Dalí courted celebrity almost as an adjunct to his work. With their melting watches and eerie blasted landscapes, Dalí’s paintings were the epitome of Surrealism, and he cultivated an equally outlandish appearance, wearing a long waxed moustache that resembled cat whiskers. Ever the consummate showman, Dalí once declared, “I am not strange. I am just not normal.”
Hopper’s enigmatic paintings look into the hollow core of the American experience—the alienation and loneliness that represents the flip side of to our religious devotion to individualism and the pursuit of often-elusive happiness.
The Mexican artist and feminist icon was a performance artist of paint, using the medium to lay bare her vulnerabilities while also constructing a persona of herself as an embodiment of Mexico’s cultural heritage. Her most famous works are the many surrealistic self-portraits in which she maintains a regal bearing even as she casts herself as a martyr to personal and physical suffering—anguishes rooted in a life of misfortunes that included contracting polio as a child, suffering a catastrophic injury as a teenager, and enduring a tumultuous marriage to fellow artist Diego Rivera.
Kusama is one of the most famous artists working today. Her huge popularity stems from her mirrored “Infinity Rooms” that have proved irresistible for Instagram users, but her career stretches back over six decades. Starting as a child, the Japanese artist began to suffer from hallucinations that manifested as flashes of light or auras, as well as fields of dots and flowers that talked to her. These experiences have provided the inspiration for her work, including the aforementioned rooms along with paintings, sculptures and installations that employ vivid, phantasmagorical patterns of polka dots and other motifs.