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.
With an HPI of 74.57, Jackson Pollock is the most famous American Painter. His biography has been translated into 94 different languages on wikipedia.
Paul Jackson Pollock (; January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956) was an American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He 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 the age of 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.
With an HPI of 69.97, Mary Cassatt is the 2nd most famous American Painter. Her biography has been translated into 72 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), but 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.
With an HPI of 69.39, Edward Hopper is the 3rd most famous American Painter. His biography has been translated into 47 different languages.
Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was an American realist painter and printmaker. While he is widely known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching. 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. His career benefited significantly from his marriage to fellow-artist Josephine Nivison, who contributed much to his work, both as a life-model and as a creative partner.
With an HPI of 69.39, Georgia O'Keeffe is the 4th 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 artist. She was known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. O'Keeffe has been called the "Mother of American modernism".In 1905, O'Keeffe began art training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then the Art Students League of New York. In 1908, unable to fund further education, she worked for two years as a commercial illustrator and then taught in Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina between 1911 and 1918. She studied art in the summers between 1912 and 1914 and was introduced to the principles and philosophies of Arthur Wesley Dow, who created works of art based upon personal style, design, and interpretation of subjects, rather than trying to copy or represent them. This caused a major change in the way she felt about and approached art, as seen in the beginning stages of 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 in 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 and Ram's Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills. After Stieglitz's death, she lived in New Mexico at Georgia O'Keeffe Home and Studio in Abiquiú until the last years of her life, when she lived in Santa Fe. In 2014, O'Keeffe's 1932 painting Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 sold for $44,405,000, more than three times the previous world auction record for any female artist. After her death, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum was established in Santa Fe.
With an HPI of 68.84, Man Ray is the 5th most famous American Painter. His biography has been translated into 59 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.
With an HPI of 65.91, Margaret Keane is the 6th most famous American Painter. Her biography has been translated into 25 different languages.
Margaret D. H. Keane (born Peggy Doris Hawkins, September 15, 1927 – June 26, 2022) was an American artist known for her paintings of subjects with big eyes. She mainly painted women, children, or animals in oil or mixed media. The work achieved commercial success through inexpensive reproductions on prints, plates, and cups. It has been critically acclaimed but also criticized as formulaic and cliché. The artwork was originally attributed to Keane's ex-husband, Walter Keane. After their divorce in the 1960s, Margaret soon claimed credit, which was established after a court "paint-off" in Hawaii.A resurgence of interest in Margaret Keane's work followed the release of Tim Burton's 2014 biopic Big Eyes. She maintained a gallery in San Francisco which boasts "the largest collection of Margaret Keane's art in the entire world." In light of the great gulf between her work's popularity and its critical lampooning, she was sometimes referred to as the "Wayne Newton of the art world."
With an HPI of 63.17, Norman Rockwell is the 7th most famous American Painter. His biography has been translated into 44 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, 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, among many others. 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 as well as painting the portraits for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as those of foreign figures, including Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru. His portrait subjects 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, however, 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.
With an HPI of 61.95, James Abbott McNeill Whistler is the 8th most famous American Painter. His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (; July 10, 1834 – July 17, 1903) was an American painter active during the American Gilded Age and based primarily in the United Kingdom. He eschewed sentimentality and moral allusion in painting and was a leading proponent of the credo "art for art's sake". His signature for his paintings took the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail. The symbol combined both aspects of his personality: his art is marked by a subtle delicacy, while his public persona was combative. He found a parallel between painting and music, and entitled many of his paintings "arrangements", "harmonies", and "nocturnes", emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony. His most famous painting, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (1871), commonly known as Whistler's Mother, is a revered and often parodied portrait of motherhood. Whistler influenced the art world and the broader culture of his time with his theories and his friendships with other leading artists and writers.
With an HPI of 60.56, Robert Rauschenberg is the 9th most famous American Painter. His biography has been translated into 38 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 both 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.
With an HPI of 60.51, Joseph Kosuth is the 10th most famous American Painter. His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.
Joseph Kosuth (; born January 31, 1945), an American conceptual artist, lives in New York and London, after having resided in various cities in Europe, including Ghent and Rome.
Pantheon has 142 people classified as painters born between 1250 and 1977. Of these 142, 22 (15.49%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living painters include Margaret Keane, Joseph Kosuth, and Bruce Nauman. The most famous deceased painters include Jackson Pollock, Mary Cassatt, and Edward Hopper. As of April 2022, 29 new painters have been added to Pantheon including Lawrence Weiner, Ad Reinhardt, and Anna Elizabeth Klumpke.
1927 - Present
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1912 - 1956
1844 - 1926
1882 - 1967
1887 - 1986
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1834 - 1903
1925 - 2008
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1925 - 1992
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Which Painters were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Painters since 1700.