Skip to Content

14 Most Famous French Artists & Painters Of All Time

14 Most Famous French Artists & Painters Of All Time

French artists have their work displayed around the world, sharing some of the most incredible stories and captivating scenes. Today we’re going to discover some of the most famous French artists and painters of all time and the work they are best known for.

14 Most Famous French Artists Of All Time

List of famous French artists

  1. Claude Monet
  2. Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  3. Edgar Degas
  4. Paul Cezanne
  5. Henri Matisse
  6. Vincent van Gogh
  7. Pablo Picasso
  8. Auguste Rodin
  9. Paul Gauguin
  10. Édouard Manet
  11. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  12. Jacques-Louis David
  13. Berthe Morisot
  14. Camille Claudel

1. Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)

Claude Monet
Nadar, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When you think of French artists, one of the first to usually come to mind is Claude Monet. He was born in 1840 and is often referred to as the father of Impressionism.

Monet’s Water Lilies series and Rouen Cathedral series are two of the most popular painting series he created, but his work can be seen in art galleries worldwide to this date.

Other notable works include Water Lilies, Haystacks and Poplars.

Books on Monet include Monet, The Triumph of Impressionism and The Met Claude Monet: He Saw the World in Brilliant Light.

2. Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 19th century, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was known as one of the top French painters, creating images of people in candid poses and setups.

His work often focused on the female body and the beauty in the people and world around us. Two of his most famous pieces of work are the Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876) and Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880).

A great book covering Renoir is Renoir: His Life and Works in 500 Images.

3. Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917)

Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Edgar Degas was born in 1834 and is a French artist known for his drawings, prints, oil paintings, and sculptures.

The majority of his most famous pieces of work celebrate dancing and dancers, such as The Ballet Class (1874), The Bellelli Family (1858 -1867) and The Absinthe (1875 -1876).

The book entitled Degas covers the artist’s life and works in great detail.

4. Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906)

Paul Cezanne
Paul Cézanne, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Within the Post-Impressionist movement, Paul Cezanne is one of the top French painters. His unique style can be seen in The Bathers (1905) and The Basket of Apples (1890), where he worked to build color and texture with small brushstrokes.

The book entitled Paul Cézanne Masterpieces of Art covers Cézanne’s life and masterpieces in detail.

5. Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954)

Henri Matisse
Alvin Langdon Coburn, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Henri Matisse’s work has had a huge influence on modern artists around the world. He used a variety of mediums, including sculpture, painting, and printmaking, creating works such as La Danse (1909) and The Joy of Life (1906).

Two titles worth to learn more about Matisse are Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs and Matisse: In 50 works.

6. Vincent van Gogh (1953 – 1890)

Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As a Dutch Post-Impressionist artist, Vincent van Gogh was a huge source of inspiration for French painters. During his life, he created an amazing 2,100 pieces of art, 860 of which were oil paintings.

The majority of this work took place in the last few years of his life. It was only after his passing that he became known as one of the greatest artists of all time, still influencing Western art to this date.

The Starry Night (1889) is a painting that almost everyone has seen at least once, showcasing his use of realism within his artwork. He worked with quick brushstrokes, which helped to capture colorful outdoor scenes.

Other notable works include The Potato Eaters (1885), Bedroom in Arles (1888), Sunflowers (1887), Wheatfield with Crows (1890), Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1890), The Siesta (1890) and Church at Auvers (1890).

Two popular titles covering Van Gogh are Van Gogh The Complete Paintings and Van Gogh’s Starry Night Notebook.

7. Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)

Pablo Picasso
AnonymousUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pablo Picasso was another huge influence on French painters. This Spanish painter and sculptor is one of the world’s most famous artists, with notable works of his including La Vie (1903), Family of Saltimbanques (1905), Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910), Girl before a Mirror (1932), Le Rêve (1932) and The Weeping Woman (1937).

You may also be surprised to learn that he worked as a ceramicist and theater designer during his career, showing his versatility within the art world.

Two titles exploring Picasso are Pablo Picasso: 1881-1973 and The Story of Pablo Picasso: A Biography Book for New Readers.

8. Auguste Rodin (1940 – 1917)

Auguste Rodin
Nadar, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the sculpture field, Auguste Rodin is often known as the founder of the modern sculpture movement. Notable works of his include The Age of Bronze (1877), which showcases his incredible attention to detail when working with this medium.

He drew inspiration from Donatello and other great sculptors of the past, which you can see in any of the sculptures that he produced during his career.

Other notable works include The Walking Man (1877-88), The Burghers of Calais (1889), The Kiss (1889) and The Thinker (1902).

The book entitled Auguste Rodin covers this artist in great detail.

9. Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903)

Paul Gauguin
See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the Post-Impressionist movement, Paul Gauguin is often cited as one of the most prominent French artists. He strived to experiment with new styles and color theories, creating works such as The Yellow Christ (1889).

Other notable works include When Will You Marry (1892), Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897-98), Vision After the Sermon (1888) and Arearea (1892).

Two titles covering Gaugin are Gauguin: His Life & Works in 500 Images and Gauguin: A Spiritual Journey.

10. Édouard Manet (1932 – 1883)

Édouard Manet
See file page for creator info.

Édouard Manet was part of the transition from realism to Impressionism, working to showcase modern life through his paintings. He was one of the most controversial French painters of his time, particularly known for Olympia (1863), which showcased nude women.

Other works of his we encourage you to check out include The Luncheon on the Grass (1863) and A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882).

The book entitled Edouard Manet covers this artist in detail.

11. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Paul Sescau, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

At the Moulin Rouge (1892-1895) is one of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s best-known pieces of work. He became famous for his paintings during the Post-Impressionist time period, but also worked as an illustrator and caricaturist.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s career lasted over 20 years, during which time he created a whopping 1,000 paintings. At the Moulin Rouge showcases his friends at the cabaret, and if you look carefully enough, you’ll even see the artist in the picture.

Other notable works include Le Lit (around 1892) and La Toilette (1889).

The book entitled Toulouse-Lautrec covers this artist in detail.

12. Jacques-Louis David (1748 – 1825)

Jacques-Louis David
Rembrandt Peale, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When studying Neoclassical French painters, Jacques-Louis David left a huge mark on the French art world. His artwork used minimal colors, but focused on classical subjects and balanced compositions.

David was a follower of Napoleon, making art that showcased his support during this rise to power. The Death of Socrates (1787) and Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1801-1805) are two pieces of his work we encourage anyone to look at to learn more about his unique style.

The book Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman covers this artist in detail.

13. Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895)

Berthe Morisot
Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Best known for The Cradle (1872) and Summer’s Day, Berthe Morisot was an Impressionist painter who was a prominent figure during the late 19th-century in Paris.

As one of the most famous female French artists, she was known for her more delicate and feminine style, using softer colors and lighter brushstrokes.

Two titles worth considering are Berthe Morisot, Woman Impressionist and Berthe Morisot.

14. Camille Claudel (1864 – 1943)

Camille Claudel
César, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Another of the best female French artists of the past was Camille Rosalie Claudel. She is best known for her sculptures, which she primarily created in marble and bronze.

One thing that’s quite surprising about Claudel is that when she passed away, she wasn’t as well-known as she is today. The quality of her sculptures and the originality of them meant that she gained a lot of recognition later on for her influence on this field.

Notable works include Sakuntala, The Waltz and The Mature Age.

Two books covering Camille Claudel are Camille Claudel: A Life and Camille Claudel.

Famous French artists – conclusion

We highly encourage you to explore the works of these famous French artists, which can be seen in galleries throughout the world still. Many of these French painters have influenced great artists over the past few centuries, and still act as inspiration for future artists and painters. Their varied styles and works mean there’s something to appeal to everyone, so you can be sure you’ll soon find your favorite French artist within the ones we’ve shared here today.

Check out our post covering the 12 most famous French paintings of all time!

Related pages:

Sharing is caring!

Dan Forsythe

A politics and history graduate with a technical writing background and based in France, Dan writes amazing articles for all things French. An insatiable traveler, Dan has crisscrossed France, Europe, and beyond. When he’s not hiking or falling down historical rabbit holes, Dan sips tea and writes technical pieces or blog posts about travel, history, and life in his adopted home.

See all posts by