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11 Most Famous French Painters Ever

Prajakta Patil
History has witnessed the emergence of some of the most renowned artists in France. This story picks out the most famous French painters of all time.

Fun Fact

Henri Matisse's "Le Bateau" was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, America, on December 3, 1961. The painting was hanging upside down for 46 days, after which it was put up straight.
France is a country of great food, great fashion, and great art. It has contributed greatly to the fields of theater, literature, fashion, sculpture, and architecture. Apart from that, the country has a fascinating history of art.
It was the birthplace of various painting movements like Classicism, Romanticism, Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, and many others. It has been home to the world's most influential and sensational painters in the world. The 18th, 19th and 20th century French art saw some of the greatest names in history.

Famous French Painters

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

"One must keep right on drawing; draw with your eyes when you cannot draw with a pencil."
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, born on August 29, 1780 in Tarn-et-Garonne, was a major neoclassical portrait painter of the 19th century. He was against the rising popularity of Romanticism, and considered himself a protector of French orthodoxy. He mastered portraiture under the influence of Italian art, particularly Raphael.
It is then that he developed a style that emphasized on the purity of color. This style, which did not employ a gradual shifting in colors, led to many bad reviews. However, it was ultimately the Romantic artists, whom he so hated, who later appreciated his art. He also painted small pictures which illustrated literary texts & scenes from the French history.
Few Notable Works: Louis-François Bertin, The Turkish Bath, Grande Odalisque, and Oedipus and the Sphinx.

Eugene Delacroix

"The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing."
Eugene Delacroix, born on April 26, 1798 in Ile-de-France, had a huge influence on the Romantic Movement. Known as the "Master of Color", Delacroix began studying art at the age of 17. He mostly used visual effects of colors and expressive brush strokes. The artist also had a fascination for war and violence.
He developed his own personal style of showing pain and suffering through brightly colored canvases. His most influential painting, Liberty Leading the People, which depicts the Parisian uprising in 1830, is one of his most remembered works.
Few Notable Works: Massacre of the Innocents, Mademoiselle Rose, Orphan Girl at the Cemetery, Head of a Woman, and The Women of Algiers.

Gustave Courbet

"When we see men of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inward and examine ourselves."
Gustave Courbet, born on June 10, 1819 in Ornans, was one of the most famous French painters of his time. He was also the most controversial artist of the 18th century. He created quite a sensation after displaying a group of paintings set in his native, Ornans, as they challenged the convention of depicting daily scenes only in history paintings.
He declared that, "Historical art is in essence contemporary", implying that he was not going to follow the convention, and wanted to change the history of art. His subjects mostly included landscapes, still life with flowers, seascapes, and hunting scenes.
Few Notable Works: A Burial At Ornans, L'Origine du monde, Man with a Pipe, The Wave, Portrait of Jo, and Nude Woman with a Dog.

Camille Pissarro

"When you do a thing with your whole soul and everything that is noble within you, you always find your counterpart."
Born on July 10, 1830, Camille Pissarro was a Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-impressionist painter. He moved to Paris in 1855, where he was tutored by Camille Corot. In his early years, Pissarro painted scenes of a river or a path, from memory.
However, he preferred to paint from real life, due to which his work was often criticized for being vulgar. However, after meeting Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne, who shared his interest of painting in a more realistic style, he changed course to Impressionism. He did a majority of his work in France.
However, he had to move to England during the Franco-Prussian War. After returning to France 20 years later, he discovered that only 40 out of his 1,500 paintings had survived. During his career, he experimented with various styles, including Georges Seurat's Pointillism.
Few Notable Works: Old Market at Rouen, Hermitage at Pontoise, Sunset at St. Charles, Boulevard, Montmartre, and Entrance to the Village of Voisins.

Édouard Manet

"No one can be a painter unless he cares for painting above all else."
Édouard Manet, born on January 23, 1832, was one of the first artists to paint modern life. With his radical painting style, he bridged the gap between Realism and Impressionism. Manet, who had worked in Thomas Couture's studio until 1856, later went on to abandon his teachings, as he did not like to layer his paintings.
He began to paint in his own style, nevertheless, maintaining some of Couture's technique like the use of thick lines and dark color. He was greatly influenced by Claude Monet and Berthe Morisot, which can be seen in his use of light shades. Most of his paintings depict scenes from daily life on the streets of Paris.
Few Notable Works: The Luncheon on the Grass, Olympia, The Absinthe Drinker, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Music in the Tuileries, and Young Flautist or The Fifer.

Edgar Degas

"What a delightful thing is the conversation of specialists! One understands absolutely nothing and it's charming."
Edgar Degas, born on July 19, 1834 in Paris, was not only famous for his paintings, but also his sculptures, drawings, and prints. Considered one of the founders of Impressionism, he was called the "Painter of Dancers". He had a fascination for the subject of dance, and over 1500 of his paintings are of ballet dancers alone.
He wanted to become a history painter in the beginning of his career. However, in his early thirties, he changed his mind and became a classical painter of modern life instead. In his early works, he generally used oils for his paintings. However, after 1875, he started using pastels, as seen in Portraits at the Stock Exchange.
Few Notable Works: The Bellelli Family, Woman with Chrysanthemums, Chanteuse de Café, At the Milliner's, and The Dance Class.

Paul Cezanne

"A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art."
Paul Cezanne was born on January 19, 1839, in the Aix-en-Provence. He was a Post-Impressionist painter, who is believed to have formed the bridge between Impressionism and Cubism. Born as the son of a prosperous hat manufacturer, he had to fight his father to become an artist.
He is renowned for his unique painting technique of painting with a palette knife. He would often apply pigments with a palette knife, giving his paintings a denser look. His work in the 1860s has thick layers of pigment and extreme tonal contrasts. However, in the mid-1870, he started experimenting with tonal variations and began painting outdoors.
One of his most renowned works, The Card Players clearly shows his gradation in colors, to create a 3D effect. Cezanne would finish his paintings very slowly, building upon each previous figure with a new outline, which often took him months to finish a painting. His work has inspired a lot of modern artists and paved way to Cubism.
Few Notable Works: Woman in a Green Hat, The Bathers, The Card Players, Still Life with a Curtain, and Pyramid of Skulls.

Claude Monet

"It's on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So, we must dig and delve unceasingly."
Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris. He was the founder of the Impressionist movement that completely changed the face of French painting in the second half of the 19th century. He developed a love for drawing at an early age, and would often fill his notebooks with sketches.
Although he first started out with selling charcoal caricatures in Paris, he soon started painting with oil after meeting Eugene Boudin. Eugène, who taught him to use oil paints, also encouraged him to paint outdoors (en plein air), a technique that he mastered later.
Few Notable Works: Impression, Sunrise, The Water Lilies, Camille, Woman with a Parasol, and The Poppy Field.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

"One must, from time to time, attempt things that are beyond one's capacity."
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, born February 25, 1841 in Limoges, was one of the most famous artists of the early 20th century. He is the one who helped launch the Impressionist movement in the 1870s. Renowned for his sensuous and charming scenes of pretty women, Renoir began his career as a porcelain painter.
However, in 1860, he joined the studio of Swiss artist Charles Gleyre, where he met Claude Monet, Frédéric Bazille, and Alfred Sisley, with whom he would share homes as well as studios. In 1869, he painted for two months with Monet, when they came up with a sketch-like technique with loose brush strokes, thus paving the way to Impressionism.
Few Notable Works: Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, Le Promenade, The Large Bathers, Two Young Girls at the Piano, and Luncheon of the Boating Party.

Vincent van Gogh

"The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore."
Vincent van Gogh, born on March 30, 1853, was a post-Impressionist French painter of Dutch origin whose work had a huge influence on the 20th century art. His dramatic brush strokes laid the foundation of Expressionism, Fauvism, and early abstract art. His works mostly included self-portraits, landscapes, and still-life portraits.
His early works consisted more of somber earth tones. However, influenced by Gauguin, Monet, Pissarro, and Bernard, after moving to Paris, van Gogh adopted brighter colors in his works, and started experimenting with various techniques. Having produced more than 2,000 works of art, the artist sold only one painting during his lifetime―Red Vineyard at Arles.
Few Notable Works: The Potato Eaters, Starry Night, Sunflowers, Wheat Field with Cypresses, and Bedroom in Arles.

Henri Matisse

"Creativity takes courage."
Henri Matisse, born on December 31, 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambresis, was a revolutionary painter of the early 20th century. Earlier trained as a lawyer, Matisse developed an interest for art only at the age of 21. He, therefore, moved to France to study art, and initially followed the 19th century style of painting.
However, he soon began to experiment with various techniques, and started painting with his personal style. His subjects mostly consisted of landscapes, portraits, studio interiors, and still life.
Few Notable Works: Woman with a Hat, Woman Reading, Luxury, Calm and Pleasure, and Landscape, the Pink Wall.
Some other famous French artists are Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, Georges Braque, Gustave Caillebotte, and many others. Not only have they contributed immensely to the history of art, but they have also inspired innumerable young artists around the globe.