Who are the greatest oil painting artists of all time? The question will undoubtedly bring out varied differences of opinion from the readers of this article. Over the last 500 years, really since the dawn of the renaissance, the world has been blessed with numerous talented and prolific artists. I have chosen five exceptional personalities that I think have had the greatest impact on the art world.
Here are my top 5, numbered in order of importance:
Oil Painting Artist #1 Leonardo Da Vinci:
Leonardo was born the illegitimate son of Piero da Vinci, and a peasant woman named Caterina, in Vinci, near Florence. He was educated primarily by Verrocchio, and much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice and spent his last years in France, at the home awarded him by Francis I.
Leonardo’s first opportunity for greatness came via Verroccio, who had him paint an angel in his “Baptism of Christ” piece. As you might expect, Leonardo did a fantastic job at this 1st opportunity. In fact, it was so good that Verrochio himself decided he would never paint again. Leonardo continued working with Verrochio for a few years, and then the two parted ways.
As time went on Leonardo found himself in Rome, where most artists of the time would eventually wind up. He was given living quarters in the Vatican by Pope Leo X in consideration for completing his commissioned pieces for the Church. Leonardo did not create many new paintings during this period, concentrating on his drawings instead. Although he would later become famous for his future studies of scientific subjects and anatomy, he would eventually find the time to do so. As you know, he is probably as famous today for these scientific discoveries as he is for his works of art.
His most famous works are probably the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. They certainly are the most reproduced. It’s a shame that we don’t have more of his work nowadays to enjoy.
Perhaps fifteen of his paintings survive, the small number due to his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques, and his chronic procrastination. Nevertheless, these few works, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, comprise a contribution to later generations of artists only rivaled by that of his contemporary, Michelangelo.
Oil Painting Artist #2: Michelangelo:
Michelangelo was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer. Despite making few forays beyond the arts, and his extreme reluctance to do so when it was forced upon him, his his body of work is truly outstanding! In fact, it is usually he or DaVinci who is credited as the most important personality of the Renaissance period.
Michelangelo Buonarroti was born into nobility, but was not raised by his parents. His father shipped him off to a stone carver and his wife at an early age, because his mother was constantly sickly and frail. While living with his surrogate parents, young Michelangelo learned the skills that would serve him throughout his life Of course, being a nobleman, his father was displeased when his son told him of his artistic intentions. It took some major convincing for Michelangelo to continue his apprenticeship.
Michelangelo’s output in every field during his long life was certainly prodigious. And when the sheer volume of surviving correspondence, sketches, and reminiscences is taken into account, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century. His two most famous sculpting works are probably the Pietà and David, which were sculpted prior to his 30th birthday.
In one of biggest ironies of life, Michelangelo created the most famous pieces of art in the world using mediums that he really didn’t like. Not only did he not like painting frescoes, he didn’t think he was all that good at it. Of course he went on to create the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling and The Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. And although he also had a low opinion of architecture, he achieved fame by pioneering the Mannerist style at the Laurentian Library. Ultimately, at the ripe old age of 74 he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Oil Painting Artist #3: Vincent van Gogh:
Van Gogh was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art for its vivid colors and emotional impact. He was born in Zundert, a village in Brabant, in the Netherlands in March of 1853.
Vincent’s first exposure to the art world was when he worked at a prominent Hague gallery, which had been established by his uncle Vincent. His brother Theo later worked for the same company. After working for the art dealers, Vincent took the job of assistant teacher, and preacher in a boarding school in England, but this was short lived and his obsession with evangelical Christianity made him want to become a clergyman like his father, so he tried to enroll in a theology school, but was refused admittance.
After many trials and tribulations, Vincent stated working as an independent artist in Brussels, while his brother Theo providing him with support. His latent, prodigious talents soon emerged, and soon he had developed his own unique style.
Van Gogh’s bold use of color and composition that would eventually became his trademark, were first seen in his Hague paintings. Van Gogh clearly had a soft spot in his heart for the downtrodden,as evidenced by many of these early works.
He later moved to Montmartre, France, where he discovered the works of Monet and other French Impressionists. It was here that he had a chance to meet with Gauguin, and Henri deToulouse Lautrec. This would be the turning point in van Gogh’s career, as he enrolled in the highly praised Fernand Cormon workshop where he further learned to use light and color in novel ways.
Throughout his adult life van Gogh demonstrated symptoms of mental illness. Despite a widespread tendency to romanticize his ill health, modern critics see an artist deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence brought about by his bouts of sickness. According to art critic Robert Hughes, Van Gogh’s late works show an artist at the height of his ability, completely in control and “longing for concision and grace. Alas, his frequent bouts of mental illness finally took their toll. He died largely unknown, at the age of 37, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Oil Painting Artist #4: Pablo Picasso:
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso Ruiz Picasso, better known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish painter, draughtsman, and sculptor. He was born in Malaga, Spain, to artist and teacher Jose Ruiz Blasco, and his wife Maria Picasso. A decade later, young Pablo Picasso learned how to paint from his father, who had been appointed teacher at the Da Guarda art school in La Coruna.
Young Pablo would go on to be the co-founder of the Cubist movement. In addition he is recognized for the wide variety of styles embodied in his work. He is perhaps best known for the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Guernica. It is commonly believed that the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War had inspired some of his greatest pieces.
In his early years Picasso was already demonstrating an incredible amount of artistic talent. He would go on to paint in a realistic manner throughout his childhood and adolescence. However, during the first decade of the twentieth century his style would change as he experimented with different techniques,theories, and ideas. His world renown accomplishments would make him a household name, and bring him a huge fortune throughout his life. He is truly one of the best-known personalities in twentieth century art.
Oil Painting Artist #5: Rembrandt:
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered the most important artist in Dutch history, and one of the greatest painters and print makers that ever plied their trade in Europe. His lifespan falls into a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age.
He was born in July of 1606 in Leiden, the Netherlands. As he grew up he had the chance to study the life of the masters such as DaVinci and Michelangelo. However, he seemed to be most influenced by the work of Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio, a revolutionary artist known for his unusual use of lighting, and the strangely out-of-place eroticism of his subjects, even biblical figures! As in the works of Caravaggio, Rembrandt’s background composition remains dark, while his subject is illuminated in a manner which makes the image appear nearly three dimensional.
After having achieved an usually high amount of success as a portrait painter, his later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Nevertheless, his etchings and paintings were remained popular throughout his lifetime, and his artistic reputation never falter during his lifetime. He was so highly thought of that nearly every important Dutch painter would end up studying under him. Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified n his portraits of his contemporaries, illustrations of Biblical scenes, and his self-portraits. In reality, it is his self-portraits that open a window to his inner soul. They create a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist completely portrayed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.
In both painting and printmaking he exhibited a complete knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of biblical scenes came from his intimate knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam’s Jewish population. Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called “one of the great prophets of civilization.