The Most Famous

PAINTERS from United States

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This page contains a list of the greatest American Painters. The pantheon dataset contains 2,023 Painters, 142 of which were born in United States. This makes United States the birth place of the 3rd most number of Painters behind Italy, and France.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary American Painters of all time. This list of famous American Painters is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of American Painters.

Photo of Jackson Pollock

1. Jackson Pollock (1912 - 1956)

With an HPI of 72.86, Jackson Pollock is the most famous American Painter.  His biography has been translated into 96 different languages on wikipedia.

Paul Jackson Pollock (; January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956) was an American painter. A major figure in the abstract expressionist movement, Pollock was widely noticed for his "drip technique" of pouring or splashing liquid household paint onto a horizontal surface, enabling him to view and paint his canvases from all angles. It was called all-over painting and action painting, since he covered the entire canvas and used the force of his whole body to paint, often in a frenetic dancing style. This extreme form of abstraction divided the critics: some praised the immediacy of the creation, while others derided the random effects. In 2016, Pollock's painting titled Number 17A was reported to have fetched US$200 million in a private purchase. A reclusive and volatile personality, Pollock struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. In 1945, he married the artist Lee Krasner, who became an important influence on his career and on his legacy. Pollock died at age 44 in an alcohol-related single-car collision when he was driving. In December 1956, four months after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. A larger, more comprehensive exhibition of his work was held there in 1967. In 1998 and 1999, his work was honored with large-scale retrospective exhibitions at MoMA and at the Tate in London.

Photo of Mary Cassatt

2. Mary Cassatt (1844 - 1926)

With an HPI of 72.11, Mary Cassatt is the 2nd most famous American Painter.  Her biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (; May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926) was an American painter and printmaker. She was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh's North Side), and lived much of her adult life in France, where she befriended Edgar Degas and exhibited with the Impressionists. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children. She was described by Gustave Geffroy as one of "les trois grandes dames" (the three great ladies) of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot. In 1879, Diego Martelli compared her to Degas, as they both sought to depict movement, light, and design in the most modern sense.

Photo of Man Ray

3. Man Ray (1890 - 1976)

With an HPI of 68.03, Man Ray is the 3rd most famous American Painter.  His biography has been translated into 61 different languages.

Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky; August 27, 1890 – November 18, 1976) was an American visual artist who spent most of his career in Paris. He was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements, although his ties to each were informal. He produced major works in a variety of media but considered himself a painter above all. He was best known for his pioneering photography, and was a renowned fashion and portrait photographer. He is also noted for his work with photograms, which he called "rayographs" in reference to himself.

Photo of Edward Hopper

4. Edward Hopper (1882 - 1967)

With an HPI of 67.54, Edward Hopper is the 4th most famous American Painter.  His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.

Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was an American realist painter and printmaker. He is one of America's most renowned artists and known for his skill in capturing American life and landscapes through his art. Born in Nyack, New York, to a middle-class family, Hopper's early exposure to art was nurtured by his parents. He studied at the New York School of Art under William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri, where he developed his signature style, characterized by its emphasis on solitude, light, and shadow. Hopper's work, spanning oil paintings, watercolors, and etchings, predominantly explores themes of loneliness and isolation within American urban and rural settings. His most famous painting, "Nighthawks" (1942), epitomizes his interest in the quiet, introspective moments of everyday life. Despite a slow start, Hopper achieved significant recognition by the 1920s, with his work becoming a staple in major American museums. Hopper's technique, marked by a composition of form and use of light to evoke mood, has been influential in the art world and popular culture. His paintings, often set in the architectural landscapes of New York or the serene environments of New England, convey a sense of narrative depth and emotional resonance, making him a pivotal figure in American Realism. Hopper created subdued drama out of commonplace subjects layered with a poetic meaning, inviting narrative interpretations. He was praised for "complete verity" in the America he portrayed. In 1924, Hopper married Josephine Nivison, also an artist, who played a crucial role in managing his career and served as the model for many of his figures. The couple lived a modest life in New York City, with summers spent in Cape Cod, which influenced much of Hopper's later work. Despite his success, Hopper remained a private and introspective individual, dedicated to exploring the subtleties of human experience and the American landscape. His depiction of the American scene, with its emphasis on isolation and contemplation, remains a defining aspect of his appeal and significance in the history of American art.

Photo of Georgia O'Keeffe

5. Georgia O'Keeffe (1887 - 1986)

With an HPI of 65.71, Georgia O'Keeffe is the 5th most famous American Painter.  Her biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Georgia Totto O'Keeffe (November 15, 1887 – March 6, 1986) was an American modernist painter and draftswoman whose career spanned seven decades and whose work remained largely independent of major art movements. Called the "Mother of American modernism", O'Keeffe gained international recognition for her meticulous paintings of natural forms, particularly flowers and desert-inspired landscapes, which were often drawn from and related to places and environments in which she lived.From 1905, when O'Keeffe began her studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, until about 1920, she studied art or earned money as a commercial illustrator or a teacher to pay for further education. Influenced by Arthur Wesley Dow, O'Keeffe began to develop her unique style beginning with her watercolors from her studies at the University of Virginia and more dramatically in the charcoal drawings that she produced in 1915 that led to total abstraction. Alfred Stieglitz, an art dealer and photographer, held an exhibit of her works in 1917. Over the next couple of years, she taught and continued her studies at the Teachers College, Columbia University. She moved to New York in 1918 at Stieglitz's request and began working seriously as an artist. They developed a professional and personal relationship that led to their marriage on December 11, 1924. O'Keeffe created many forms of abstract art, including close-ups of flowers, such as the Red Canna paintings, that many found to represent vulvas, though O'Keeffe consistently denied that intention. The imputation of the depiction of women's sexuality was also fueled by explicit and sensuous photographs of O'Keeffe that Stieglitz had taken and exhibited. O'Keeffe and Stieglitz lived together in New York until 1929, when O'Keeffe began spending part of the year in the Southwest, which served as inspiration for her paintings of New Mexico landscapes and images of animal skulls, such as Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue (1931) and Summer Days (1936). After Stieglitz's death in 1946, she lived in New Mexico for the next 40 years at her home and studio or Ghost Ranch summer home in Abiquiú, and in the last years of her life, in Santa Fe. In 2014, O'Keeffe's 1932 painting Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 sold for $44,405,000—at the time, by far the largest price paid for any painting by a female artist. Her works are in the collections of several museums, and following her death, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum was established in Santa Fe.

Photo of Grant Wood

6. Grant Wood (1891 - 1942)

With an HPI of 62.67, Grant Wood is the 6th most famous American Painter.  His biography has been translated into 50 different languages.

Grant DeVolson Wood (February 13, 1891 – February 12, 1942) was an American painter and representative of Regionalism, best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest. He is particularly well known for American Gothic (1930), which has become an iconic example of early 20th-century American art.

Photo of Richard Serra

7. Richard Serra (1939 - 2024)

With an HPI of 61.94, Richard Serra is the 7th most famous American Painter.  His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.

Richard Serra (November 2, 1938 – March 26, 2024) was an American artist known for his large-scale abstract sculptures made for site-specific landscape, urban, and architectural settings, whose work has been primarily associated with Postminimalism. Described as "one of his era's greatest sculptors", Serra became notable for emphasizing the material qualities of his works and exploration of the relationship between the viewer, the work, and the site.Serra pursued English literature at the University of California, Berkeley, before shifting to visual art. He graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1961, where he met influential muralists Rico Lebrun and Howard Warshaw. Supporting himself by working in steel mills, Serra's early exposure to industrial materials influenced his artistic trajectory. He continued his education at Yale University, earning a B.A. in Art History and an M.F.A. in 1964. While in Paris on a Yale fellowship in 1964, he befriended composer Philip Glass and explored Constantin Brâncuși's studio, both of which had a strong influence on his work. His time in Europe also catalyzed his subsequent shift from painting to sculpture. From the mid-1960s onward, particularly after his move to New York City in 1966, Serra worked to radicalize and extend the definition of sculpture beginning with his early experiments with rubber, neon, and lead, to his large-scale steel works. His early works in New York, such as To Lift from 1967 and Thirty-Five Feet of Lead Rolled Up from 1968, reflected his fascination with industrial materials and the physical properties of his chosen mediums. His large-scale works, both in urban and natural landscapes, have reshaped public interactions with art and, at times, were also a source of controversy, such as that caused by his Tilted Arc in Manhattan in 1981. Serra was married to artist Nancy Graves between 1965 and 1970, and Clara Weyegraf between 1981 and his death in 2024.

Photo of Norman Rockwell

8. Norman Rockwell (1894 - 1978)

With an HPI of 61.47, Norman Rockwell is the 8th most famous American Painter.  His biography has been translated into 46 different languages.

Norman Percevel Rockwell (February 3, 1894 – November 8, 1978) was an American painter and illustrator. His works have a broad popular appeal in the United States for their reflection of the country's culture. Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine over nearly five decades. Among the best-known of Rockwell's works are the Willie Gillis series, Rosie the Riveter, The Problem We All Live With, Saying Grace, and the Four Freedoms series. He is also noted for his 64-year relationship with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), during which he produced covers for their publication Boys' Life (now Scout Life), calendars, and other illustrations. These works include popular images that reflect the Scout Oath and Scout Law such as The Scoutmaster, A Scout Is Reverent, and A Guiding Hand.Rockwell was a prolific artist, producing more than 4,000 original works in his lifetime. Most of his surviving works are in public collections. Rockwell was also commissioned to illustrate more than 40 books, including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and to paint portraits of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as those of foreign figures, including Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru. His portrait subjects also included Judy Garland. One of his last portraits was of Colonel Sanders in 1973. His annual contributions for the Boy Scouts calendars between 1925 and 1976 (Rockwell was a 1939 recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest adult award given by the Boy Scouts of America), were only slightly overshadowed by his most popular of calendar works: the "Four Seasons" illustrations for Brown & Bigelow that were published for 17 years beginning in 1947 and reproduced in various styles and sizes since 1964. He created artwork for advertisements for Coca-Cola, Jell-O, General Motors, Scott Tissue, and other companies. Illustrations for booklets, catalogs, posters (particularly movie promotions), sheet music, stamps, playing cards, and murals (including "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "God Bless the Hills", which was completed in 1936 for the Nassau Inn in Princeton, New Jersey) rounded out Rockwell's oeuvre as an illustrator. Rockwell's work was dismissed by serious art critics in his lifetime. Many of his works appear overly sweet in the opinion of modern critics, especially the Saturday Evening Post covers, which tend toward idealistic or sentimentalized portrayals of American life. This has led to the often deprecatory adjective "Rockwellesque". Consequently, Rockwell is not considered a "serious painter" by some contemporary artists, who regard his work as bourgeois and kitsch. Writer Vladimir Nabokov stated that Rockwell's brilliant technique was put to "banal" use, and wrote in his novel Pnin: "That Dalí is really Norman Rockwell's twin brother kidnaped by gypsies in babyhood." He is called an "illustrator" instead of an artist by some critics, a designation he did not mind, as that was what he called himself.In his later years, Rockwell began receiving more attention as a painter when he chose more serious subjects such as the series on racism for Look magazine. One example of this more serious work is The Problem We All Live With, which dealt with the issue of school racial integration. The painting depicts Ruby Bridges, flanked by white federal marshals, walking to school past a wall defaced by racist graffiti. This 1964 painting was displayed in the White House when Bridges met with President Barack Obama in 2011.

Photo of Robert Rauschenberg

9. Robert Rauschenberg (1925 - 2008)

With an HPI of 61.32, Robert Rauschenberg is the 9th most famous American Painter.  His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.

Milton Ernest "Robert" Rauschenberg (October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008) was an American painter and graphic artist whose early works anticipated the Pop art movement. Rauschenberg is well known for his Combines (1954–1964), a group of artworks which incorporated everyday objects as art materials and which blurred the distinctions between painting and sculpture. Rauschenberg was primarily a painter and a sculptor, but he also worked with photography, printmaking, papermaking and performance.Rauschenberg received numerous awards during his nearly 60-year artistic career. Among the most prominent were the International Grand Prize in Painting at the 32nd Venice Biennale in 1964 and the National Medal of Arts in 1993.Rauschenberg lived and worked in New York City and on Captiva Island, Florida, until his death on May 12, 2008.

Photo of Frederic Edwin Church

10. Frederic Edwin Church (1826 - 1900)

With an HPI of 61.02, Frederic Edwin Church is the 10th most famous American Painter.  His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.

Frederic Edwin Church (May 4, 1826 – April 7, 1900) was an American landscape painter born in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters, best known for painting large landscapes, often depicting mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets. Church's paintings put an emphasis on realistic detail, dramatic light, and panoramic views. He debuted some of his major works in single-painting exhibitions to a paying and often enthralled audience in New York City. In his prime, he was one of the most famous painters in the United States.

People

Pantheon has 158 people classified as American painters born between 1738 and 1977. Of these 158, 19 (12.03%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living American painters include Joseph Kosuth, Jasper Johns, and Frank Stella. The most famous deceased American painters include Jackson Pollock, Mary Cassatt, and Man Ray. As of April 2024, 17 new American painters have been added to Pantheon including Sanford Robinson Gifford, Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, and Anna Lea Merritt.

Living American Painters

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Deceased American Painters

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Newly Added American Painters (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

Which Painters were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Painters since 1700.