Do you believe that portrait paintings are merely the flawless depiction of the subject’s face? But a well-curated portrait captures much more than that! From the person’s personality and state of mind to actions and emotions to an event in time and stories, a portrait painting reveals a lot about the subject in a subtle manner.
Therefore, no art form can be compared to portrait painting. While the world has seen some masterpieces by great portrait painters, here we list the top 10 most influential portrait painters of all time.
1. Leonardo da Vinci
Much of the popularity of Leonardo da Vinci can be attributed to his creation, the greatest portrait of all time — Mona Lisa! Also, in his professional career as a portrait painter, he produced very few works, yet received widespread recognition and popularity. Such is his popularity, that even if you ask a person next door, who has zero knowledge of portrait paintings, he too would know about Leonardo da Vinci.
2. John Singer Sargent
Arguably one of the greatest and most famous portrait painters of the modern era, Sargent rose to popularity for his world-famous masterpiece — Portrait of Madame X (1884) at the age of 28 and continues to be famous even today. What makes his paintings different and truly unique is the seamless amalgamation of the classical art form and the impressionist style of painting. Another masterpiece of his- “Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” is a glittering example of his awe-inspiring art form.
3. Jan Van Eyck
Jan Van Eyck is another extremely influential portrait painter. The very fact that his paintings continue to be a muse of the masses even centuries after they were first created, is a testimony to the greatness of his craft. Eyck’s paintings constituted the perfect use of oils, realism, and some hidden symbols and meanings as well! Some of his notable works include — the double-portrait “The Arnolfini Wedding”, and “Man in a Red Turban”, which is actually a self-portrait.
3. Rembrandt Van Rijn
Rembrandt Van Rijn, a 17th-century portrait painter was a master of painting on oil portrait style of painting. The most striking feature of Rijn’s paintings is his ability to capture minute details and an extremely sensitive way of depicting the human face. Some of the great works of Rembrandt van Rijn include — The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp (1632), Portrait of Jan Six (1654), and Lucretia (1666).
4. Sir Anthony Van Dyck
Sir Anthony Van Dyck was an all-time great realistic painter. His paintings are so close to reality that one’s senses can be easily taken for a ride. None of his portraits seem to be artificial or scaled up. This very realism and natural beauty of Dyck’s paintings made him have a style of his own, and a popular artist of his times. His famous works include Portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio (1623), and Queen Henrietta Maria (1633).
6. Diego Velazquez
Spanish artist Diego Velazquez has been a great inspiration to the artists across the world, thanks to his complex depictions and the unique style of painting. His portrait paintings like “Portrait of Pope Innocent X” and the group portrait “Las Meninas” have registered themselves as unforgettable masterpieces in the history of art.
7. Raphael (Raffaello Sanzi)
Raphael was undoubtedly the greatest find of the era of the High Renaissance. He died at the meager age of 37 but left behind an everlasting legacy in the form of some truly inspirational pieces of art. His contribution to the art of portrait painting includes his Madonna portraits, and at least two individual masterpieces: “Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione ‘’ and “Portrait of Pope Leo X ‘’.
8. Hans Holbein the Younger
Hans Holbein the Younger was a truly gifted and versatile portrait painter, with a diverse and eternal body of work to his credit. His paintings were characterized by great attention to detail and a unique fusion of simplicity and grandeur that would captivate the onlooker. Notable works include Portrait of Henry VIII (1536), Portrait of Sir Thomas More, Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling, and The Ambassadors (1533).
9. Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527–1593)
Giuseppe is regarded as the inventor of a unique genre of painting, which involved the extraordinary organization of books, flowers, fruits, animals, and other objects to form a flawless and absolutely recognizable human portrait. How amazing is that! These unique paintings by Arcimboldo are truly a class apart. Examples of Arcimboldo’s exemplary works include The Librarian, Winter (1573), and The Gardner (1590)
10. Theodore Gericault
No list of influential portrait painters can be complete without including the name of Theodore Gericault. Theodore’s most famous painting is the modern history painting “The Raft of the Medusa’’. However, Gericault was also a master portraitist, and his portraits were characterized by the sensitive characterization of his sitters. Famous portraits by Theodore Gericault include Kleptomaniac (1823), Woman Suffering from Obsessive Envy (1822), and Woman Addicted to Gambling (1822).
Let Us Get One Portrait Made
The influence and the diverse body of work represented by the above-mentioned portrait painters should be enough to inspire you to get one for yourself! A family portrait painting, a self-portrait of a famous artist, or a painting on oil portrait — choose your favorite style, and get one today.