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Famous French Artist You Should Know

Famous French Artist You Should Know

Famous French Artist You Should Know

Countless artists from across the world have shaped and influenced Art as we know it today. However, French artists with their rich art history and institutions have been some of the most significant art innovators in modern times.

Initially, the French Kings championed artistic endeavors and contributed to the country’s art institutions. Then institutions such as the French Academy of Fine Art, the Louvre and many other museums, art galleries, and art schools supported the French artistic enterprise. Fortunately, French artists then took the initiative and innovated in many novel ways that today are recognized and loved right across the world.

European art had initially been dominated after the Middle Ages by the Italian Renaissance. Then Germany, Netherlands, and Spain all made contributions, but in the 17th century, France started to be the leader in some new movements. Highlights include French Baroque of the 17th century, to Rococo style in the 18th century, to Neoclassicism in the middle of the 18th century and then in the 19th century with Romanticism.

In the middle of the 19th century, France saw the rise of Impressionism, a French art movement in which artists focused on the depiction of light, candid poses and vivid colors in visible brush strokes. Impressionism was highly influential and made France the center of the art world. It was followed by Post-Impressionism which marked the beginnings of Modernism through which the world moved towards modern art.

Know more about French art through these famous artists and their most celebrated masterpieces. Here is the list of famous French artists you should know.

A Tour of French Artists

A Tour of French Artists

  • Georges de La Tour (1593 – 1652)
    • Georges de La Tour was a French Baroque painter, who spent most of his working life in the Duchy of Lorraine, which was absorbed into France between 1641 and 1648. He painted mostly religious scenes lit by candlelight and specialised in Chiaroscuro compositions, using sharp contrasts between light and dark.
  • Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665)
    • Nicolas Poussin was the leading painter of the classical French Baroque style, although he spent most of his working life in Rome. Most of his works were on religious and mythological subjects painted for a small group of Italian and French collectors. He returned to Paris for a brief period to serve as First Painter to the King under Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu, but soon returned to Rome and resumed his more traditional themes.
  • Élisabeth Sophie Chéron (1648 – 1711)
    • This Self Portrait portrays Élisabeth Sophie Chéron, who was a renaissance woman, acclaimed in her lifetime as a gifted painter, poet, musician, artist, and academic. At age 22 she was admitted to the Académie as a portrait painter and was the fourth woman painter to enter the academy. She exhibited regularly at the Salon, and at the same time produced poetry and translations. She was fluent in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
  • François Boucher (1703 – 1770)
    • François Boucher was a French painter who worked in the Rococo style. He is known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings and was perhaps the most celebrated painter and decorative artist of the 18th century. Boucher often took inspiration from Peter Paul Rubens and Antoine Watteau. More importantly, for the time, Marquise de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis XV, was a great admirer of his work. As a result, Boucher painted several portraits of his patroness, Madame de Pompadour, who is often called the “godmother of Rococo.”
  • Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 – 1806)
    • Jean-Honoré Fragonard became a prominent painter within the Rococo artistic movement, which was filled with light colours, asymmetrical designs, and curved, natural forms. The Rococo style emerged in Paris during the eighteenth century, more specifically during the reign of Louis XV. Fragonard produced more than 550 paintings and among his most famous works are genre paintings conveying an atmosphere of intimacy and veiled eroticism.
  • Jacques-Louis David (1748 – 1825)
    • Jacques-Louis David was a French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of the era. In the 1780s his history painting marked a change in taste away from Rococo frivolity toward a classical austerity and feeling, harmonising with the moral climate of the final years of the Royal Régime.
  • Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867)
    • Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was a French Neoclassical painter who thought of himself as a painter of history and who today is highly regarded for his many portraits. Critics often found his style bizarre and archaic, his expressive distortions of form and space make him an important precursor of modern art, as his work influenced Picasso and Matisse and other modernists.
  • Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863)
    • Eugène Delacroix was an artist regarded as the leader of the French Romantic school. Delacroix’s use of expressive brushstrokes shaped the work of the Impressionists, while his passion for the exotic inspired the artists of the Symbolist movement. Dramatic and romantic content characterised the central themes which led him to travel in North Africa, in search of the exotic.
  • Rosa Bonheur (1822 – 1899)
    • Rosa Bonheur was a French artist, a painter of animals and sculptor, known for her artistic realism. Bonheur was considered to be the most famous female painter during the nineteenth century. Her most famous work is this her monumental “The Horse Fair”. As a realist painter, she broke from tradition in depicting the horse eye as it is, and not using anthropomorphism for emotional effect.
  • Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 – 1904)
    • Jean-Léon Gérôme was a French painter and sculptor, whose oeuvre included historical paintings, Greek mythology, Orientalism and portraits in the academic painting tradition. Jean-Léon Gérôme started his artistic career in Paris about 1840 where he studied under Paul Delaroche, a painter of historical scenes, whom he accompanied to Italy. He visited Florence, Rome, the Vatican and Pompeii. He then attended the École des Beaux-Arts back in Paris.
  • Camille Pissarro (1830 – 1903 )
    • Camille Pissarro made significant contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Pissarro friendships included many Impressionist artists, including Cézanne, Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Degas. He is the only artist to have shown his work at all eight Paris Impressionist exhibitions, from 1874 to 1886. He acted as a father figure not only to the Impressionists but also to the significant Post-Impressionists, including Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.
  • Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883)
    • Édouard Manet was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life and was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. His early masterpieces caused much controversy and served as an influence for the young painters who would create Impressionism. In the last two decades of Manet’s life, he developed a style that had a significant impact on future painters.
  • Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917)
    • Edgar Degas was prolific in paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings. He was fond of the subject of dance, and more than half of his works depict dancers. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, although Degas rejected the term, preferring to be called a Realist. He was masterly in depicting movement, as can be seen in his many masterpieces of dancers, racecourse subjects and female nudes.
  • Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906)
    • Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906) was a Post-Impressionist painter who laid the foundations in the transition from the 19th-century Impressionism to the 20th century’s Cubism. Cézanne’s often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and recognisable. He used planes of colour and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. Both Matisse and Picasso have remarked that Cézanne “is the father of us all.” Cézanne’s art is characterised by repetitive, exploratory small brushstrokes that build up to form complex colour fields, demonstrating his intense study of his subjects.
  • Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917)
    • Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917) is considered the father of modern sculpture; he possessed a unique ability to model a complex and deeply pocketed surface in clay. Many of his most notable sculptures were criticized during his lifetime. Rodin’s most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, he modelled the human body with realism and with personal character and physicality. By 1900, he was a world-renowned artist and remained one of the few sculptors widely known outside the arts community.
  • Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)
    • Oscar-Claude Monet was a founder of French Impressionist painting, and the term “Impressionism” is derived from the title of his painting Impression, “Soleil Levant” or “Impression, Sunrise”, which was exhibited in 1874. Monet adopted a method of painting in which he painted the same scene many times to capture the changing of light and the passing of the seasons. Monet is known for having produced a series of paintings all versions of the same subject and perspective. Examples include his series of the “Valley of the Creuse” series and his famous series of “Haystacks” and “Water Lilies” paintings.
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919)
    • Pierre-Auguste Renoir, commonly known as Auguste Renoir, was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As one who celebrated beauty and especially feminine sensuality, Renoir’s paintings are notable for their vibrant light and saturated colour, most often focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. In characteristic Impressionist style, Renoir suggested the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of colour, so that his figures softly fuse with their surroundings.
  • Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895)
    • Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot was an Impressionist painter who exhibited for the first time in the highly esteemed Salon de Paris in 1864. The Salon was the annual exhibition of the Académie des beaux-arts in Paris. Her work was selected for exhibition in six subsequent Salons until, in 1874, she joined the “rejected” Impressionists in the first of their shows, which included Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley.
  • Henri Rousseau  (1844 – 1910)
    • Henri Rousseau was self-taught and developed a style that lacked traditional training, with its absence of strict proportions, one-point perspective, and with the use of sharp, often unnatural colours. The result was art pieces that were imbued with a sense of mystery and eccentricity. Rousseau started painting seriously in his early forties, and by age 49 he retired from his job to work on his art full-time. His primary employment before he retired was as the duty customs officer and tax collector. Many critics who ridiculed his work disparaged Rousseau’s style; however, he always aspired, in vain, to common acceptance.
  • Gustave Caillebotte (1848 – 1894)
    • Gustave Caillebotte was a French painter and patron of the Impressionists artists. Caillebotte was born to a wealthy upper-class Parisian family. Caillebotte’s sizable allowance which allowed him to paint without the pressure to sell his work. It also allowed him to help fund Impressionist exhibitions and support his fellow artists and friends Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro, among others by purchasing their works and paying the rent for their studios.
  • Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903)
    • Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903) was a French post-Impressionist artist, who was not appreciated until after his death. Gauguin is now recognised for his experimental use of colour and the Synthetist style that were distinctly different from Impressionism. He spent the last ten years of his life in French Polynesia, and most of his paintings from this time depict people or landscapes from that region. His work was influential to the French avant-garde and many modern artists, such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Gauguin’s art became famous after his death. Gauguin was an essential figure in the Symbolist movement as a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramist, and writer.
  • Jean Béraud (1849 – 1935)
    • Jean Béraud was a French painter renowned for his paintings depicting the life of Paris. Pictures of the Champs Elysees, cafés, Montmartre and the banks of the Seine detailed everyday Parisian life.
  • Georges Seurat (1859 – 1891)
    • Georges-Pierre Seurat was a French post-Impressionist artist. He is best known for devising the painting techniques known as chromoluminarism and pointillism. While less famous than his paintings, his conté crayon drawings have also garnered a great deal of critical appreciation. Seurat’s artistic personality combined a delicate sensibility and a passion for logical abstraction and mathematical precision. His pioneering techniques relied on the ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to blend the colour spots into a fuller range of tones.
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901)
    • Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, also known as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a French painter, printmaker, caricaturist, and illustrator whose immersion in the colourful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 19th century allowed him to produce a collection of enticing and provocative images of the modern and decadent scenes of those times. Toulouse-Lautrec is counted amongst the best-known painters of the Post-Impressionist period.
  • Pierre Bonnard (1867 – 1947)
    • Pierre Bonnard was a French painter, illustrator, and printmaker, who was a founding member of the Post-Impressionist group of avant-garde painters called, Les Nabis. Bonnard’s early work was strongly influenced by the work of Paul Gauguin, and the prints of Hokusai and other Japanese artists. He was a leading figure in the transition from impressionism to modernism.

Famous French Artist Quotes

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“The very great artists attach you even more to life.”
– Gustave Caillebotte

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“It is absurd to look for perfection.”
– Camille Pissarro

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“I paint things as they are. I don’t comment.”
– Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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“Beauty is the promise of happiness.”
– Henri Rousseau

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“Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science.”
– Georges Seurat

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“A love of nature is a consolation against failure.”
– Berthe Morisot

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“The pain passes but the beauty remains.”
– Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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“My work is always better when I am alone and follow my own impressions.”
– Claude Monet

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“I invent nothing, I rediscover.”
– Auguste Rodin

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“A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.”
– Paul Cézanne

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“We were created to look at one another, weren’t we?”
– Edgar Degas

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“Color is a matter of taste and of sensitivity.”
– Édouard Manet

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“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.”
– Camille Pissarro

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“I prefer three touches of colour on a piece of canvas to the most vivid memory.”
– Jean-Léon Gérôme

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“I became an animal painter because I loved to move among animals.“
– Rosa Bonheur

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“Do all the work you can; that is the whole philosophy of a good way of life.”
– Eugène Delacroix

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“Is there anyone among the great men who have not imitated? Nothing is made with nothing.”
– Ingres

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“In the arts the way in which an idea is rendered,
and the manner in which it is expressed,
is much more important than the idea itself.”
– Jacques-Louis David

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“Every time I leave a Poussin, I know better who I am.”
– Cézanne

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“Art is either plagiarism or revolution.”
– Paul Gauguin

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“The precision of naming takes away from the uniqueness of seeing.”
– Pierre Bonnard

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Reflections

  • With which artists would you most like to have a coffee?

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The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.”
– Eugene Delacroix

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Photo Credit: 1) Claude Monet [Public domain]

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