My Top 20 List of the Most Influential ​Painters of All Time


Have you seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Do you know the scene where they visit The Art Institute of Chicago? Come on? You know it. If you don’t, please stop what you’re doing right now and go watch that movie! Immediately. Then, I’d love it if you came back to revisit this post.

Some of the greatest artists and artworks of all time are spotlighted in that movie and a few show up in this list. When I saw that particular scene for the first time, it was without a doubt an extremely pivotal moment in my life. I could not wait to have a similar experience! Culture. Art. Trains. The city… experiencing life in all it’s glory as a young adult was like a tall drink of cold water! 

So let’s get to it!

Here’s my top 20 countdown of the most influential painters of all time

20. Georges Seurat

My top 20 countdown starts with none other than, Georges Seurat! The piece that speaks to me and to Cameron for that matter: ‘A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte.’ What’s not to love? There’s a lady walking a monkey… and did I say it’s made of up tiny dots!? Ahhh… pointillism.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte Georges Seurat. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. 1884 – 86. Oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago.

19. Emily Carr

Emily Carr Emily Carr. Big Raven. 1931. Oil on canvas. Vancouver Art Gallery.

18. Degas

Edgar Degas Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas. Café Singer. 1879. Oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago.

17. Paul Cezanne

Cézanne Paul Cézanne. The Bay of Marseille, Seen from L’ Estaque. 1880-1890. Oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago.

16. Kandinsky

Kandinsky Vasily Kandinsky. Painting with Green Center. 1913. Oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago.

15. Edward Hopper

Hopper Edward. Hopper. Nighthawks. 1942. Oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago.

14. Picasso

Picasso Pablo Picasso. The Old Guitarist. 1903-04. Oil on panel. The Art Institute of Chicago.

13. Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley. Former President Barack Obama. 2018. Oil on canvas. National Portrait Gallery.

12. Will Cullen Hart

Check out this video giving a glimpse of the now sold out book detailing Will’s collected works of art. Sound on for the rad music,

Will Cullen Hart Will Cullen Hart. Circulatory System. 2000. Private Collection. Acrylic or Oil.

11. Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein Roy Lichtenstein. Girl with Ball. 1961. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art.

10. Renoir

Renoir breastfeeding art Pierre-Auguste Renoir. A Woman Nursing a Child. 1894. Oil on canvas. Scottish National Gallery.

9. Frida Kahlo

The Two Fridas Frida Kahlo. Las Dos Fridas (The Two Fridas). 1939. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art of Mexico.

8. Mary Cassatt

Mother bathing child art Mary Stevenson Cassatt. The Child’s Bath. Oil on canvas. 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago.

7. Faith Ringgold

Check out what Faith has to say about the making of this iconic piece,

Faith Ringgold Tar Beach Faith Ringgold. Tar Beach. 1988. Acrylic on canvas, bordered with printed, quilted, and pieced cloth. Guggenheim Museum.

6. Toulouse-Lautrec

Moulin Rouge Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. At the Moulin Rouge. 1892-1895. Oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago.

5. Jackson Pollock

The Key Jackson Pollock. The Key. 1946. Oil on linen. The Art Institute of Chicago.

4. Van Gogh

I adore all of this artist’s work. The piece that most speaks to me is ‘Van Gogh’s Chair,’ simple yet deeply moving.

Van GoghVincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh’s Chair. 1888. Oil on canvas. National Gallery, Uk.

3. Monet

‘Haystacks’ I’m in aw that I’ve seen these in person and more than once. Kandinsky wrote about it perfectly, who knew the feeling was universal?

“That it was a haystack the catalogue informed me. I could not recognise it. This non-recognition was painful to me. I considered that the painter had no right to paint indistinctly. I dully felt that the object of the painting was missing. And I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendour.[10]

Vasily Kandinsky
Monet Claude Monet. Haystacks- Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer). 1891. Oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago.

2. Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell Norman Rockwell. Freedom from Want (Thanksgiving Picture). 1943. Oil on canvas. Norman Rockwell Museum.

1. Georgia O’Keefe

This piece took my breath away when I first saw it in person. Her entire life and catalog is a complete inspiration. She takes it by a landslide for the number 1 spot on my list.

Georgia O'Keefe Georgia O’Keefe. Sky above Clouds IV. 1965. Oil on Canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago.

There you have it! Let me know who tops your list of most influential painters… I’d love to find out, let me know by commenting below. 

Final note:

There are so many worthy artists! This list could probably change and fluctuate a thousand times over! So no hating if you feel I’ve left someone crucial out. It’s tough, you’ll find, if you give it a try!

Also, you may have noticed, but I intentionally left out watercolorist, and illustrators (aside from Norman Rockwell who was both illustrator and painter). In addition, I didn’t do a list of artists in general and so you’ve probably noticed this is painters only, and didn’t focus on other art forms like drawing with graphite, pastel, or ink, sculptors, installation artists, performance artists, graffiti artist or photographers.

I plan on doing a few more lists highlighting some of those fields of work, definitely illustrators and photographers so keep an eye out for those!


 * The photographs of the artwork and the artwork in this post are not my own. They have been shared for research and education purposes only.

3 responses to “My Top 20 List of the Most Influential ​Painters of All Time”

  1. Glad to see Mary Cassat and Frieda Kahlo in here. Jackson Pollock – meh – I’m not such a fan.
    Surprised to see Faith Ringgold – I love her work
    Missing: Vermeer – Girl with the Pearl Earring and the Milkmaid
    Rembrandt, Hal I guess I really like the Dutch painters.
    J. Singer-Sargent – The Loggia
    Manet – Jeanne (this for your Dad as well as me)
    Hokusai – The Great Wave
    Especially love the pics you chose for Van Gogh & Picasso.
    Too many to choose from to limit it to 20 for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for taking time to read and respond- it’s means so much to me!

      I’d love to talk to you more about Pollock and I was waiting for someone to call me out on not including Hokusai and Sargent- definitely worthy of being in top spots on this list. As well as Rembrandt! 💖


  2. I should also add that Manet is one I went back and forth over, certainly worthy. I don’t know enough about Vermeer’s work. I’m interested and I’ll have to read up on him. Of course, I know the painting you mentioned.


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