Famous French Artists, Famous French Paintings


Here are a few of our favourite famous french artists, some interesting information about them, their most important works, and pictures of their most beautiful works of art.

Interestingly, the majority of them hail from the “Impressionist” period.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet (1840–1926) is undoubtedly one of the most famous french artists of all, and claimed to be the founder of Impressionism.

Monet was born in Paris but moved to Normandy with his family in 1845. He spent his later years in Normamdy but also spent time in London and Holland.

In 1890 Monet purchased his home in Giverny where he spent the remaining years of his life.

Monet was particularly interested in the effect of light and would paint the same scene in different lighting conditions or times of the day. For example, he painted around 20 versions of the Rouen Cathedral from dawn….

Cathedrale de Rouen, Plei… Claude Monet

…..to dusk:

Rouen Cathedral at Sunset… Claude Monet

His most famous french paintings include his “Waterlilies” Series….

Waterlilies: Green Reflections I Claude Monet Buy From Art.com

…and his scenes of his home and gardens in Giverny, such as this one of the Japanese Bridge:

The Japanese Bridge Claude Monet Buy From Art.com

Interesting fact: the term ‘impressionism’ was coined by critic Louis Leroy in a satirical review of an art exhibition in April of 1874, which included Monet’s Impression, Sunrise painting.

Paul Cézanne – Father of Modern Art

The paintings of Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), a native of Aix en Provence, were highly influential in the development of 20th century art, including Cubism and Fauvism.

Cézanne is one of the most famous french artists and is known as a ‘post impressionist’, which was similar in some ways to impressionism (vivid colours, thick application of paint) but also broke away from some of its limitations (such as lack of form).

Famous french paintings include his “Bathers” and “Mont St Victoire” series.

Interesting facts: he had a bad temper; was a slow painter (hence why some of his portraits look a little tired, because his subjects had to sit completely still for hours at a time!)

The Bathers, 1902-06 Paul Cezanne Buy From Art.com
Mont Saint Victoire, 1900 Paul Cezanne Buy From Art.com

Henri Matisse – Master of Colour

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was one of the most important famous french artists of the 20th century.

He was considered one of the leaders of the Fauvist movement (which, in a nutshell, explored the use of colour as symbolic and expressing feelings rather than just depicting scenes).

He had a long and varied artistic career, painting in different styles ranging from impressionist to abstract.

His paintings are known for their vivid, sensual colours; some of his most striking paintings were completed when he spent time on the French Riviera.

Open Window, Collioure, 1905 Henri Matisse Buy From Art.com

Some of the most well known paintings are his “Bathers”….

Blue Nude II Henri Matisse Buy From Art.com

Interesting fact: In 1941 Matisse was diagnosed with cancer and was permanently confined to a wheelchair. But this didn’t stop him completing the amazing Chapel of the Rosary in Vence!

Edgar Degas – Painter of Dancers

Add to your list of famous french painters is Degas (1834–1917), born in Paris, also spending some time in the US and Italy.

Degas is probably one of the most fascinating of all the famous french artists. He is known as one of the founders of impressionism although it is actually quite difficult to categorise his works into any specific style. He is really a class all of his own – with different influences including classicism, romanticism, and realism. His style is definitely very unique and distinctive.

He was a profilic artist, producing well over one thousand works including painting, drawing and sculpture.

He is best known for his paintings of ballet dancers and racetracks (over 1500 paintings of ballet dancers alone!).

Interesting fact: he never married and was not known to have had any romantic relationships; he was described as argumentative and grumpy somtimes (we can all have our moments…).

The Dance Foyer at the Opera on the R… Edgar Degas Buy From Art.com

More Famous French Artists…

Are there any other famous french artists who are not impressionists?

Yes (although we’re ashamed to say we don’t know as much about them as with the others!).

Alexandre Cabanel (1823–1889) painted historical and religious subjects in a more ‘academic’ style (in fact, he was a strong opponent of the Impressionists).

Some of this most famous works include:

  • Birth of Venus (1863) – now in the Musee d’Orsay, Paris;
  • The Death of Moses (1851); and
  • La Comtesse de Keller (1873)
La Naissance de Venus Alexandre Cabanel Buy From Art.com

There are more famous french artists that we haven’t covered here – Rousseau, Renoir, Manet and Pissarro are just a few.

We’ll talk about those next time….we’re off to Paris now to visit some museums! 

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