The 7 most important painters in history

Discover with the TBA Encyclopedia those considered by our team the 7 most famous artists and painters in the world, an extensive list with the most complete biographies of each of them.

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Leonardo da Vinci


Who covers a lot little squeezes, the saying goes. But there are always exceptions in every rule, Leonardo da Vinci is, without a doubt, convincing proof of this. A brilliant painter, sculptor, architect and writer, he is universally considered one of the pillars on which the fundamental branches of human knowledge were based. He was interested in practically everything that his eyes and his mind could cover, and what is more grace, he managed to excel in all of them.

Illegitimate son of the Florentine notary Ser Piero and of a young peasant girl, he was born in Vinci, the Italian region of Tuscany, in 1452. His artistic inclinations soon appeared, since at the age of fifteen he entered the workshop of the painter Andrea del Verocchio as an apprentice. His incipient artistic inclinations can already be seen in his works from this early period. A good example of this is the angel made by Leonardo for Verocchio's work "The Baptism of Christ", which was followed by two announcements: "The Madonna of the Carnation" and the "Portrait of Ginevra Benci".


In 1492 Leonardo entered the service of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. At this stage of his life, he displayed all his gifts of artistic and scientific creativity and outlined the stylistic singularity that would be the admiration of his contemporaries. In Milan he made six pictorial works, among which are the "Portrait of Cecilia Galerani" "The Lady with the Ermine" a version of the "Virgin of the Rocks" and the "Last Supper", a mural that he painted for the refectory of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

In 1499 the fall of Ludovico Sforza meant the abandonment of such a great undertaking, however this was not the case and Leonardo began his truly great career.



Leonardo's work is very fruitful, and considering that in art as in many other things, the important thing is not quantity but quality, da Vinci was an example for his contemporaries and for later creators. One of the most famous paintings by this master is, without a doubt, the Mona Lisa or, in Spanish, "Señora Lisa". For many considered the most famous painting in the world. Much has been said about the enigmatic expression of this face, which sometimes seems to smile and at other times reflects a certain bitterness.

In fact, da Vinci left a field to the imagination of the spectators. He brilliantly used the technique of blurring and softening the colors, removing rigidity from the contours. And this is the secret of the Mona Lisa, whose eyes and corners of the lips, fused with soft shadows, take on new shades every time we look at them.


Another of Leonardo's great creations is the "Last Supper" which, unfortunately, suffered great deterioration over the years. The harmony of this work and the depth of the scene were the product of hard work. As it is said, Leonardo sometimes spent a whole day meditating with the brush in his hand, without deciding to make a stroke. And it is that, apart from the excellent technique, the embodied spirit is the one that gives greatness to the masterpieces of art. Apart from Florence Leonardo worked long periods in Milan. There he influenced many artists who followed the expressive route outlined by the master.



Leonardo also managed to stand out in the world of science where he used all his artistic talent with an insatiable desire to decipher the secrets of nature.

Along with conducting studies of new statues, painting sketches, and observing the sky to elucidate spatial theories, da Vinci conducted comprehensive studies of human anatomy, leaving descriptions of the heart, the structure of the spine and muscles.

The slogan he had was that experience was the only interpreter of nature. He also believed that no investigation could be called true science if it did not go through mathematical proof.

In this way, the experimental method and mathematical calculation would be, from that period, the characteristics of modern science.



Miguel Angel


Miguel Angel Buonarroti considered "master of the sublime", was born on March 6, 1475 in Capresse, Italy.

From a very young age he showed his interest in art since in 1488 he entered the workshop of the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio as a student. From then on, his love for the plastic arts and the patronage of Lorenzo de Medici allowed him to study sculpture with Bertoldo di Giovanni in the so-called Casino de San Marcos, a garden in which the noble family of Florence kept a valuable collection of ancient sculpture.

By 1492 before the Medici family was expelled from the Tuscan city, Michelangelo fled to Venice and Bologna. He spent a year studying the monuments of this city, and was especially interested in the works of Jacopo della Quercia.

Back in Florence he sculpted a "Sleeping Cupid" so perfect that it was sold as an antique to Cardinal Riario.

In 1496 he moved to Rome, where he sculpted a "drunken Bacchus" before devoting himself to the theme of religious inspiration, which would dominate his art from 1498. His masterpiece in this period is the marble "Pieta" found in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, in which the strong pathos of the scene contrasts with the serenity of the Virgin's very young face.

In 1501 Miguel Angel was commissioned to make the fifteen figures of the Piccolomini chapel in the Cathedral of Siena and the marble "David" that, completed in 1504 and preserved in the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, would become the incarnation of the spirit and strength of the city.

Between 1536 and 1541 he made what can probably be considered the highest expression of Renaissance pictorial art: the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. After completing this work, the artist turned his attention to architectural works. Substitute for Antonio Sangallo in the direction of the works of the Vatican, Miguel Angel made the plans of the dome of San Pedro, which he would not see completed, and carried out other Roman monuments, such as Porta Pia, the Farnese palace, which It had been started thirty years earlier and not finished until then, or the Capitol Square development.

Venerated in the Papal States and Florence, and exalted as a great artistic personality of his time, Michelangelo died in Rome on February 18, 1564, when he was 89 years old.


Roberto Matta


Matta's works reveal his desire to express the images of the subconscious through visual metaphors. The impact of these psychologically charged paintings on the art world helped perpetuate the surrealist movement and established Matta as a leader in his field.


The influences of his youth had a great effect on his art; most of his original ideas were derived from those early experiences.

Roberto Matta was born on November 11 in Chile, 1911, and experienced the lack of economic and political stability that afflicted his homeland. In addition to inflation, Chile was under pressure from strikes and military meetings. The living conditions were not favorable, but they caused deep emotions within Matta that would later be revealed in his art. In 1932, Matta left Chile in reaction to the political situation after the election of Arturo Alessandri, a conservative politician who did not support the working classes.

Matta went to London, Rome, New York and Paris. While traveling and living in these places, the painter read the literature of Mallarmé and Lautréamont. He also related to influential people in the studies of art, literature and poetry such as Gabriela Mistral, a Chilean poet, and Federico García Lorca, a member of the "Grupo de 1927" from Spain.

This group of poets used dark images and metaphors to present cosmological themes. His ideas had a very great impact on Matta's early art. In "The Earth is the Man", for example, the creation of the earth reveals his mental images of the birth and rebirth of his identity as an exile. His representation of the land also reveals images of the geographical and political chaos of the Chile of his youth. For this reason, this painting shows "a return to the concept of the earth born of chaos."

Matta painted earthly forces as representatives of his psychological impulses. It combines images of the earth and the human body with the use of bright colors, to reveal the wild forces inherent in both. In his work, he tried to create a message about the evolution of man from a barbarian creature to a rational being.

In Paris, Matta related to the surrealist movement through artists such as André Breton and Marcel Duchamp. At this time he began to paint and incorporate his unconscious creations into his art, combining the realms of rational and irrational thought; "the structural transformation of the images of the mind." In Matta's art, plant figures, rocks, and man represent metaphors for the forces of nature (see for example "Rocks").

Matta became a leader in the world of surreal art and influenced many young artists such as Jackson Pollock. In general, paintings from this early time in Matta's life explore the possibility of representing psychological impulses through artistic images, a theme that he continued to develop in his later art.

Matta's artistic endeavors perpetuated the influence of the Surrealist movement within Chile and other countries. Matta revolutionized the concepts of art through his artistic and psychological perceptions of the world and the mind.


Salvador Dali


Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dalí was born in the Catalan town of Figueras, Spain, on May 11, 1904. He soon showed drawing skills, and his father, who was a notary, sent him to Madrid to study at the School of Fine Arts of San Fernando, from where he would be expelled years later. His early works, such as "Girl at the window", were within a naturalistic and meticulous line that produced an ambiguous sense of unreality, which would be accentuated later.

In 1928, encouraged by the Catalan painter Joan Miró, he went to Paris and joined the surrealist movement, however, with his 1933 exhibition he met international fame. It was then that he began to lead a social life full of quirks and eccentricities. Such an attitude was considered by some as a way to commercialize his paintings and, added to his lack of political stance, led to his expulsion from the surrealist group. During this period he put into practice his "paranoiac-critical interpretation method", based on the theories of psychoanalysis, associating delusional and dreamlike elements in a realistic pictorial language.

During World War II, he settled in the United States, near Hollywood, where he collaborated with some films. At the end of the 1940s he returned to Spain and began a mystical stage based on famous compositions such as "The Last Supper", on the work of the Italian, Leonardo da Vinci. Later, he alternated painting with jewelry design and book illustration. Meanwhile, anthological exhibitions of his work followed one another (New York, 1966; Paris, 1979; Madrid, 1982), and, as his public interventions decreased, the controversy gave way to a renewed interest in his painting.

In 1974, the Dalí Museum was inaugurated in Figueras, his hometown. Eight years later Gala, his muse, passed away, which made him diminish his artistic activity. Salvador Dalí was together with Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, one of the great representatives of 20th century Spanish painting.



Vincent van Gogh


Vincent van Gogh was a notable Dutch painter, the son of a Protestant pastor. At the age of 16, he began working at the Hague branch of the Goupil art gallery, for which he continued to work in London and Paris (1873-1876). A self-educated and almost obsessive study of the Bible brought him back to Britain as an instructor and evangelist at Ramsgate and at the Jones Methodist School in Isleworth. Back in Holland (1877) he worked as a bookseller, while he was preparing theological studies at the University of Amsterdam, which he would resign a year later. Without abandoning, however, his idea of ​​dedicating himself to an ecclesiastical career, he followed a missionary course in Brussels and left as a lay missionary.


When he failed as a missionary (1880), he continued to reside there as a vagabond and intensified the practice of drawing under the influence of the work of Jean-Francois Millet, one of the artists he always admired most. He then resided in Brussels, where his brother Theo helped him financially. In 1881 he lived with his parents in Etten, and at the end of the same year, in The Hague, his cousin Anton Mauve, a well-known landscaper, encouraged and advised him in his first steps as a painter. His activity as an artist voluntarily marginalized from prevailing tastes and various failed love and sentimental experiences led him to take refuge again with his parents, now in Nuenen (1883), where two years later he painted his first important oil painting: Aldeanops eating potatoes.


After his father died, he went to Antwerp where he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts, being bequeathed to the class of beginners; there he studied Rubens' work in depth. He then went to reside with Theo in Paris (1886), where, in Cormon's workshop, he met the painter Toulouse-Lautrec, and various representatives of the Impressionist movement. Two years later he moved to Arles. With his mental health seriously damaged, it led him to cut his earlobe and, a little later, to voluntarily seclude himself in a Saint-Ramy health home, which he would not leave until 1890, when his genius was already recognized in Paris. . After a brief stay in this city, he went to Auvers-sur-Oise, where he went to Dr. Gachet, despite which on July 17, 1890 he shot himself in the chest, as a result of which he died two days later.

The National Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam preserves the most complete collection of his works, among which it is difficult to single out any one above the others. He was a pure artist, very fond of reading, concerned with aesthetics and a good connoisseur of the history of painting. His letters to his brother Theo reveal almost every day his complex personality and the issues that concerned him most. The aesthetic appreciation of his work - in life he did not sell more than two paintings - intensified in the second post-world war, after Nazism outlawed his art as decadent, has led to a very high economic valuation of his paintings.



Edward munch


This Norwegian artist stood out for painting sad and distressing pictures, which were inspired by sad dreams and situations in his personal life. However, thanks to his great imagination he was able to become one of the main precursors of expressionism.

Born in Loeiten, Norway, on December 12, 1863, Munch began painting at the age of 17. A state scholarship, awarded in 1885, allowed him to continue his studies in Paris for a short period. Twenty years later, in the cities of Paris and Berlin, Munch developed most of his artistic production. After an influence from impressionist and post-impressionist painting, he was able to develop his own style, in which images related to illness and death are frequently observed.

The exhibition of his paintings in Berlin in 1892 so impressed that the authorities decided to close the exhibition.

But apparently this fact gave the painter greater energy, and in 1890 he began to develop German expressionist art.

His best known work is "The Scream" (1893, Oslo National Museum) (in the image) and the anguishing "Sick Child" (1881-1886 Oslo National Museum), reflect the trauma suffered by Munch in his childhood, to see his mother and sister die of tuberculosis. Other recurring themes in his painting can be seen in the painting "The Bridge", with pale figures, with indefinite features and faces. His sexual anxieties are also represented throughout the work with his portraits of women, those who appear fragile or as devouring vampires.

In 1908 he had to be hospitalized as his anxiety worsened. In 1909 he returned to Norway and from then on he lived with a relative tranquility that allowed him to paint the murals of the University of Oslo (1910-1916) and in bright and colorful landscapes. Although his last paintings are not as impressive as his early works, his last self-portrait "Between the clock and the bed" (1940 Munch Museum in Oslo), marks a return to his obsessive previous works.

Munch only painted in oil, but also made woodcuts, etchings and lithographs, which today are considered a valuable contribution to contemporary art. His style is defined as powerful, simple, direct and strong.

Most of his paintings are in Norway, his native country, a few "Atardecer", "Laura, the artist's sister", painted in 1888, which are in the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.


Edouard manet


Born in Paris on January 23, 1832, Edouard Manet rescued painting from realistic academicism to bring it to life through a wide range of color applied in delicate tones.

Edouard was the son of a well-matched marriage. His father, Auguste Manet, was a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Justice, while his mother, Eugénie-Desirée Fournier, was the daughter of a prominent diplomat descended from a genealogy of lawyers and public officials.

The painter made his first studies at the Rollin College, where he developed his taste and love of drawing. Although his father wanted the profession of lawyer for Edouard, the boy confronted him determined to do his bidding and study drawing. Faced with this situation, he decided to leave the country at any cost, and once he was rejected at the naval school, he embarked for Brazil in December 1848.

Upon his return, after a new unsuccessful attempt to enter the naval school, he managed to overcome his father's opposition and entered the studio of the prestigious master painter Thomas Couture.

Although the highly rigorous and academic instruction to which he was subjected was not to his liking, over six years he acquired the skill and technique that would make him stand out among many other painters of his time. Later he studied and revised the works of the greats in museums to supplement his instruction. Around 1856, together with another painter named Albert De Balleroy, Manet established his own studio, where he began to emerge. Little by little he took influences from literary Parnassianism and Spanish art.

In 1863 he presented the work "Country Lunch" (Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe) (in the image), which, although carried out in a revolutionary technique, was rejected by the traditionalists for including a naked woman in the middle of a group of dressed men . Even so, the painting achieved notoriety and avant-garde artists who would be integrated into Impressionism were defended.

That same year, Edouard Manet married Suzanne Leenhoft, who years before had been his piano teacher, and who at the time of the marriage had an eleven-year-old son who was possibly the painter's son. The boy was a model for Manet in various works.

In 1865, the portrait of a nude woman again became controversial, and had to be displayed under the protection of armed guards before being placed at a height that removed it from critics, but made it impossible to appreciate.

Annoyed by the negative attitude towards his creation, Manet moved to Spain where he remained for a time until he decided to return to France. As the rejection of his work continued, he decided to exhibit it in a public square in 1867.

Manet served at the front during the Franco-Prussian War and returned to Paris shortly before the establishment of the Commune in 1871. In 1873 he exhibited "The Good Bock" with great success, and a year later he participated in the first exhibition of the movement that became known as impressionistic. Edouard Manet managed to gain fame and recognition during his later years and died on April 30, 1883.