Top 12 Greatest Visual Artists of all Time

Leonardo's Painting of the Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Getty

If you ask art historians who the greatest visual artists of all time are, there would be multiple different names. Of course, there are several standards by which you can measure who the best artists of all time are. Unfortunately, historically, the art world has been dominated by men, and women artists are seldom mentioned despite the enormous contributions they have made to the art world. It is important that women artists are also recognized as part of the canon, though, for their work is also of superior and enduring quality, and some even achieved success in their own day despite great societal obstacles.


There are several factors that would determine if a particular artist makes the list. One of them is the trend and fashion of the moment that the artist lived, another is the longevity of an artist's popularity. 

The impact made by an artist on his contemporaries is another factor that several people will want to consider among others. In the long run, determining who are the greatest artists of all time may be a subjective opinion, however, based on public opinion and what the museums say, the ten best visual artists of all time are:

1. Michelangelo (1475-1564)

Michelangelo is regarded as the greatest sculptor and painter of all time. He was a major figure of the renaissance time in Italy especially in Florence and Rome. Up till today, some of his marble carvings have a flawless beauty.

He also produced several of the best drawings in his lifetime as an artist. Michelangelo is popularly known for the Italian Renaissance Sculpture as well as the Sistine Chapel Frescoes among other incredible works of art.

Michelangelo lived between 1475-1564.

2. Rembrandt Van Rijn (1606-1669)

Rembrandt is a Dutch painting genius, creating several master pieces in his lifetime. Rembrandt is particularly renowned for his passion for history painting, and still life portraits. He made several canvasses in his lifetime which were famous for their emotional content.

This is why Rembrandt was branded as a realist painter. Rembrandt was born in the year 1606 and died 1669.

3. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Pablo Picasso, the founder of cubism is one of the most influential artists in history. He was a sculptor, printmaker, painter and ceramicist. He produced several of the greatest paintings of the 20th century. Born to a painter father, Picasso received all the needed encouragement to build a successful painting career. This gave him the privilege to study art in some of the finest art schools in Spain.

He was among the 250 sculptors who exhibited the 3rd Sculpture International held in America. His style and technique was exceptionally prolific throughout his lifetime producing a total number of 50,000 artworks which includes drawings, paintings as well as sculpture among others. Of all other forms of art, Picasso excelled most in painting.

4. Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)

Leonardo was born in Florence. Despite living several centuries ago, he still remains one of the influential artists of all time. Leonardo although self-educated was regarded as an intellect in his lifetime because of his passion for science. His only training was in the field of science and he was apprenticed at an early age to a renown Florence painter of that time.

Although Leonardo Da Vinci's contribution to the work of art were small, two of his paintings are the most popular today. They are "Mona Lisa" and "The Last Supper." The "Last Supper" is the only surviving Fresco of Leonardo Da Vinci.

The fact that his interest ranged beyond art could have been the reason why his input was very small. In his lifetime, so engrossed was he in physics and mechanics that he went ahead to create workable artistic designs for bicycles among other things.

This is what is popularly believed for his failure to complete several of his paintings and art projects. There are also credible reports that he spent a significant amount of time thinking and testing scientific laws as well as writing his observations about them.

5. Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Claude Monet is popularly regarded as the founder of French Impressionist painting.

Monet had an incredible passion for documenting the countryside in his numerous paintings. This was the birth of his impressionist paintings. When Monet went to Paris, he observed several artist copying the popular works of other artists. Rather than follow this trend, Monet developed the habit of sitting by an available window and painting what he saw.

Gradually, Monet became popular for his impressionism art. He influenced several young artists and made them commit to impressionism, within a short period of time, impressionism became the popular form of painting in Paris. Sometime in 1874, the first impressionism exhibition took place in Paris. In that exhibition, Monet presented a total of twelve art works which included five paintings and seven pastels.

6. Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)

Born in Netherlands, Van Gogh is a remarkable painter whose works of art is being sold at unbelievable prices across the world today. His contribution to art was basically painting. He painted many still-life paintings in his lifetime, several of them were portraits of friends and acquaintances. In all, Van Gogh completed about 800 paintings. One thing that distinguished him as a painter was his grasp for color relationship and unique brush work. His work till today is a great source of inspiration to several impressionist all over the world.

7. Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

Rodin was a workaholic and a dedicated sculptor. He is a worthy successor to great minds like Michelangelo. Rodin is popularly considered as the best sculptor of the modern era.

His success is derived from his ability to model stone and clay in complex manners. Rodin in his lifetime earned a living collaborating with established sculptors on several projects.

8. Jan Van Eyck (1390-1441)

He is one of the most remarkable Northern Renaissance artists. He his one of the artists whose works are greatly copied today. Aside working for the court, Van Eyck produced several paintings for private clients. One thing that was peculiar to him is that he was the only painter in his era to sign is canvasses.

9. Donatello (1386-1466)

Donatello is regarded as the greatest sculptor of the 15th century. He was no doubt one of the best artist of that era. He was very skillful with wood, terracotta and stone.

10. Peter Paul Rubens (1571-1640)

Peter Rubens was the most influential figure in counter-reformation baroque art. His contribution to art were basically paintings, however he produced almost all possible genre of paintings. Although he was very versatile, producing cartoons, book illustrations as well as sketches for metal work and sculptures.

11.  Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun (1755-1842)

Vigée-Le Brun was one of the most renowned portraitists of 18th century France and the most famous woman artist in Europe. Through talent and perseverance she achieved success in one of the most turbulent periods of French and European history, and became one of Queen Marie Antoinette's favorite painters. She painted more than 20 portraits of Marie Antoinette, along with portraits of other European aristocrats, actors, and writers, primarily women.

  She was elected to art academies in ten different cities. She created over 900 paintings in her lifetime, including roughly 600 portraits and 200 landscapes.

12. Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)

Georgia O'Keeffe was one of the most important and successful artists of the twentieth century. She was one of the first American artists to embrace abstraction and became one of the leaders of the American Modernist movement. Her art is personal and innovative. She is known for paintings of large abstract flowers, dramatic New York skyscrapers, and southwestern landscapes.