Before we start reading about famous American artists, we must know how American art flourished and what made it popular in the 20th century.
When we say “American Painters”, only a few names appear in front of us, i.e., Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Jackson Pollock.
But there are other American painters as well who influenced a massive audience with their painting techniques and works.
American art existed for decades, but due to the dominance of European art, American art and culture failed to receive attention at various points in time.
Even colonization by Spanish, English, French, and Portuguese affected the growth of American art.
However, things turned upside down for Europe after the Second World War, when the entire world went through its darkest phase.
Commerce and culture were bleeding. European art was terribly affected. America had also experienced worse, but it wasn’t as damaged as any European country.
When the entire world was busy resurrecting its economy, businesses, and art, America became a hub for fresh talents.
Artists from nearby countries and states moved to the United States, and it produced some extremely talented painters.
In no time, America replaced France, which was the center of art and culture.
This helped various art periods, such as modern art and abstract expressionism, come into the limelight.
Today we’re going to talk about those famous American artists who thrived in the mid 20th century and continued impacting lives to this date.
You’ll also expect some famous American painters from the 19th century who massively influenced the lives of people born after the 1950s.
1. Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper, a famous American painter of the early 20th century, was known for his work depicting real scenes of the urban landscape.
Oil was his favorite medium, and many of his renowned works made it to historical events and exhibitions.
Although Edward built his name as a renowned American painter, he started off his journey as an illustrator.
Robert Henri, an American painter and professor who helped him learn the basics of art, is the founder of the Ashcan School of Artists.
Edward, the American oil painter, went to Europe several times in his professional career. But he never got himself involved in any art style common in France or nearby countries.
He developed his own artistic approach and built his name with sheer confidence and immense effort.
Nighthawks and Chop Suey—most of his art would explain scenarios of what urban American life looked like.
His knowledge of how to alienate characters with the use of bright light, whether they come from dawn or late at night, is what Edward’s art is famous for.
|Date of Birth||1882|
|Date of Death||1967|
|Associated Movement||Realism, Modern Art, and Impressionism|
|Notable Work||Nighthawks, Office at Night, and Automat|
(Also Read: 40 Famous Abstract Paintings)
2. Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock is a known abstract expressionist artist from America.
His work was as phenomenal as that of any famous painter in art history.
Jackson was a specialist in drip paintings. He pioneered some art methods such as spilling, pouring, and splashing.
The American painter was also responsible for bringing action paintings into the limelight.
Art was in his blood, as he was into it from a very young age.
At 18, he moved to New York, where he explored the art realm under the guidance of Thomas Hart Benton.
Jackson had a turbulent childhood. Perhaps that’s why he was so driven and committed to his work, which helped him become the greatest American painter he is known for.
|Date of Birth||1912|
|Date of Death||1956|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Abstract Expressionism, Modern Art, Action Painting|
|Notable Work||Convergence, Autumn Rhythm, and Lavender Mist|
3. Georgia O’Keeffe
The legacy Georgia O’Keeffe left behind was astounding. She was known for her art, which explored different facets of nature.
Her work would feature landscapes with mysterious compositions, including a slight and subtle depiction of bones and skulls.
She developed her artistic style as she moved further in her journey. Most of its credit goes to those who experimented with abstract art.
In 1920, abstraction art was at its peak since it embraced painters ability to express ideas and emotions through colors, shapes, and brush strokes in an unexpected and unconventional fashion.
Not only was she a popular American artist, she was also the first female painter to gain recognition in New York art history.
|Date of Birth||1887|
|Date of Death||1986|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Modernism, Precisionism, and American Modernism|
|Notable Work||Jimson Weed, Black Iris, and Cow’s Skull|
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4. Andy Warhol
The first name that appears when we talk about art in the United States is Andy Warhol.
The most beloved American artist, Andy, was a prime mover in modern art.
He was versatile. You’d see his immense contribution to films, art, and poetry.
Warhol would pick anything as his subject and make art. That’s why he ended up producing a series of paintings, including cows, florals, and dollar notes.
Andy Warhol was the best of the best—this is what his peers used to say about him.
Like many successful American painters, Andy’s style was quite unconventional and eccentric.
Therefore, the subjects in his paintings would raise eyebrows. It wasn’t that Andy was only infamous; he was popular among those various communities that foresaw the art future.
Andy was a free thinker, a genius, and also a producer of some controversial artworks like Campbell’s Soup.
|Date of Birth||1928|
|Date of Death||1987|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Pop art and Modern art|
|Notable Work||Big Electric Chair and COCA COLA|
5. Jean-Michel Basquiat
Jean Michel Basquiat was a famous black artist from America.
Extremely talented, hardworking, and dedicated soul who thrived in art from a destitute background.
He was a significant American art figure in the 1970s New York Graffiti movement.
Jean, through his art, spoke boldly about various issues such as racism, poverty, and addiction.
Most of his art featured bold colors with strong lines, showcasing intense scenes and raw emotions.
The most famous black movement, the Harlem Renaissance shaped countless African American artists’ lives; Jean Michel Basquiat was one of them.
|Date of Birth||1960|
|Date of Death||1988|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Contemporary art, Neo-expressionism, and Primitivism|
|Notable Work||Untitled: 1982|
(Also Read: 21 Contemporary Black Artists)
6. Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko was a free thinker, a rare talent, and an expert in colors, known for his artistic ideas and approach.
Rothko’s paintings would tend to bring tears to their viewers’ eyes.
He was known for expressing basic human emotions such as tragedy, doom, and ecstasy.
He was an immigrant in the United States who desired to be nobody but a painter.
A bunch of people helped shape Mark Rothko’s style; among them was Max Weber, who taught him how to express emotions through paintings.
His turning point was when he moved to New York in 1913 with his family, and in later years, the work he produced received recognition at various art exhibitions.
His initial days were full of struggle, but with his peers, he found his direction and his place in the New York art market.
According to him, making art is a nobal act, and art is a profound form of expression. This thought made him produce more pieces of art.
Unlike others, Mark Rothko rejected figurative subjects and focused on shapes and colors. That’s why every piece of art he created conveyed human emotions, whether it was grief or ecstasy.
|Date of Birth||1903|
|Date of Death||1970|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Abstract Expressionism, Modern Art, and Color Field Movement|
|Notable Work||Orange and Yellow, No. 61 (Rust and Blue), and Entrance to Subway|
7. Norman Rockwell
The only American painter whose work was reproduced over and over in the 1920s, 30s, and even 40s was Norman Rockwell.
Norman was honored with several awards, and his work was even compared with Mark Twain’s novels.
It was evident from his peers’ testimonials, as nobody ever left without praising his work.
He gained a massive fan base in his early years, which continued until the 1970s, when his style transitioned to something else, advocating for freedom of speech and the civil rights movement.
Norman produced some historical art, such as Girl at Mirror, but his works weren’t broadly palatable.
That’s why his critics would point out flaws in his work and make remarks. But he’d deny it and stick with the ideas that helped him grow as an American painter.
|Date of Birth||1894|
|Date of Death||1978|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Modern Art|
|Notable Work||Girl at Mirror, Freedom from Want, and The Problem We All Live With|
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8. James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Although James Whistler was born in the 19th century, his works left an indelible mark on the lives of the 20th century.
The famous American artist was ahead of his time and came up with tons of Post Impressionism art, whereas his friends were still exploring different facets of realism and impressionism.
Most of James’ childhood was spent in Russia, where he attended art lessons at the Imperial Academy of Sciences.
Art has existed in his life ever since he was a kid. But he learned more about it and pursued painting Robert W. Weir, with little interest in other subjects.
As time went on, he explored many forms of art, including etching, interior design, furnishings, and even frameworks.
The famous American artist was a key figure in the aesthetic movement, which emphasized beauty over moral or social messages.
|Name||James Abbott McNeill Whistler|
|Date of Birth||1834|
|Date of Death||1903|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Modern art, Aestheticism, and Tonalism|
|Notable Work||Whistler’s Mother and Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1|
9. Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein emerged as an important and influential art figure during the Pop Art movement.
He generated his passion and motivation from commercial printing techniques.
He knew it wasn’t easy to thrive in highly competitive pop art.
But he was certain about his abilities, through which he tackled contemporary culture and subjects that made him a renowned pop artist.
Throughout his career, he participated in other art movements such as Abstract Expressionism and produced some fine works like Purple Galaxy.
But his comic inspired art brought some serious business to his ways, which brought both fortune and fame, preserved his legacy, and solidified him as one of America’s most famous artists.
|Date of Birth||1923|
|Date of Death||1997|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Pop Art, Contemporary Art, Modern Art, and Abstract expressionism|
|Notable Work||Whaam, Drowning Girl, and Look Mickey|
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10. Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassat is the most talented and famous female painter in America. Her role, work, and contribution to the development of Impressionism are commendable.
She was a feminist who helped other aspiring female painters carve their niche and make big in their lives.
Her life changed when she met Edgar Degas, another impressionist artist, with whom she experimented with various subjects and collectively produced art made using new approaches.
She got her first recognition when her work was displayed at the famous Paris Salon Exhibition.
Mary traveled across Europe after she took a break from school. She studied and painted in various parts, including Spain, Belgium, and Rome, before shifting to Paris.
|Date of Birth||1844|
|Date of Death||1926|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Impressionism, Modern art, and American Impressionism|
|Notable Work||The Child’s Bath, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, and The Boating Party|
11. Grant Wood
Grant Wood’s American Gothic is world famous. It clearly shows his area of interest and painting methods.
The American artist grew up surrounded by farmland, which sparked his interest in nature and domestic scenes.
Grant Wood was a part of regionalism, which focused on capturing the daily scenes and cultures of America.
His American Gothic falls into this category, which featured two stern looking individuals standing outside at the front of the main door, with the man holding a pitchfork looking at the viewer and the woman with a poker face looking at the pitchfork.
As per records, many artists were involved in depicting real life scenes of the United States.
But the way Grant Wood demonstrated characters, scenes, and urban landscapes was commendable.
The famous American artist’s motive was clear as he wanted to show American culture such as hardwork, simplicity, and self sufficiency.
|Date of Birth||1891|
|Date of Death||1942|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Regionalism, Modern art, and Social realism|
|Notable Work||American Gothic and The Skater|
12. Frederic Edwin Church
The famous American artist built his name in both America and Europe when Romanticism was at its peak.
His favorite is landscape art, which held great importance in Romanticism.
Most of his famous landscape works featured sunsets, storms, and glaciers.
The tone of his works would be either of them: dramatic, vibrant, or emotionality.
Although Frederic began his artistic journey at an early age, he learned more about Romanticism from a local leader.
His artwork would deliver a deeper message, and his renowned piece, The Heart of the Andes, represented spiritual enlightenment.
|Name||Frederic Edwin Church|
|Date of Birth||1826|
|Date of Death||1900|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Hudson River School|
|Notable Work||The Heart of the Andes, Niagara Falls, and The Icebergs|
13. Gilbert Stuart
Gilbert is a rare and prolific talent who completed over 1,100 portraits despite being bedridden for weeks.
He’s America’s most prolific portrait painter producing art in a humorous and spontaneous manner.
The 19th century belonged to him, as his peers weren’t even close to what he was planning for in terms of art.
Gilbert was one of the few painters who introduced America to the loose and brushy style common among the community of English painters.
From lawyers to politicians to diplomats, most of the 19th century’s American affluents were the subjects of his art.
The creator of countless famous portrait paintings, Gilbert, was widely known for his works featuring George Washington.
|Date of Birth||1755|
|Date of Death||1828|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Neoclassicism and Romanticism|
|Notable Work||George Washington (The Constable-Hamilton Portrait)|
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14. Keith Haring
Keith Haring was an activist, a muralist, and one of America’s most controversial painters.
He rose to fame in the 1980s when he began drawing art on walls and ceilings in subway stations in New York.
His sexuality raised many eyebrows; his response to it was evident through his works.
The famous American artist was also responsible for bringing other issues to the surface, including racism, LGBTQ, drug abuse, and others.
Inspired by graffiti artists, he produced art that he made available for everyone; he believed art should be accessible to every individual, whether they were into it or not.
That’s why he produced so much graffiti art, motifs, and murals to share different messages, and due to that, he used to come in contact with many strangers.
Not only that, he used to point out issues with catchy slogans and satirical notes. The Crack is Whack is a fine example of how serious he was about certain scenarios.
Haring, in his lifetime, had worked with many renowned faces, peers, and children. But he preferred to work with children. He believed that children are very imaginative, kind, and have a sense of humor, which helped him produce his kind of art.
|Date of Birth||1958|
|Date of Death||1990|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Pop art and Contemporary art|
|Notable Work||Safe Sex, Crack Is Wack, and The Radiant Baby|
(Also Read: 21 Paintings of Romanticism)
15. Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns is one of the classic American artists who has mesmerized the world with some of his finest creations.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Johns collaborated with many liked minded American artists.
He used to take inspiration from Dada master Marcel Duchamp, whose influence made him question the nature of art.
Not only that, but it also shaped his artistic approach.
The famous American artist also defined the time that occurred between abstract expressionism and pop art.
Throughout his career, he produced various flag paintings and avoided depicting real life scenes and human figures.
He was the first famous American artist to present dichotomies embedded in the national flag.
Jasper, at the age of 93, is still involved in art but not as active as he was during his peak times.
He is honored with various prestigious awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, which he received in 2011.
|Date of Birth||1930|
|Date of Death||Still Active|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Abstract expressionism, Neo-Dada, and Pop Art|
|Notable Work||Flag (1955), Three Flags (1958), and Map (1961)|
(Also Read: 15 Iconic Artists of Dadaism)
16. Andrew Wyeth
Andrew Wyeth’s journey is inspiring, as he has gone through several hurdles and hoops.
Many people would show up at his exhibitions. But when it comes to news channels and reporters, he was always seen down on.
The famous American artist worked for different people, and his collections are held in various art museums, including the Met, the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney.
Many movies, stories, and documentaries about Wyeth have been produced. Many people tried to demolish his legacy, but brilliant art always finds its way and gets appreciated.
Andrew’s artistic approach was completely out of the box, as he’d switch places rather than working at one place to produce art.
The top American artist painted many people, domestic scenes, and landscapes using watercolor and dry brush.
His art would deliver a subtle message that had the potential to change one’s perspective.
One fine example is Christina World, a famous realism artwork by the best American artist.
|Date of Birth||1917|
|Date of Death||2009|
|Associated Movement/ Period/ Art Style||Modern art, Realism, and Regionalism|
|Notable Work||Anna Christina, Wind from the Sea, and Christina World|
(Also Read: 25 Famous Louvre Paintings)
After the Second World War, the art world saw the potential of American artists. Not only European art but also art in the Middle East sensed the rise of American art culture.
Althogh American painters Gilbert Stuart, James Whistler, and Norman Rockwell from the 19th century already foresaw the future of American art.
Geniuses like Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Mark Rothko took their legacy and built a liberal environment where any American individual could present their talents and help the country’s art move in the right direction.
The above-shared famous American artists shaped the art style, cultural activities, and creative arc of America when the entire world was reviving from the losses of World War II.
These American art professionals produced some of the world’s finest paintings.
And if you want to own any of them, I mean their replicas.
Frequently Asked Questions
Andy Warhol is considered the most controversial painter in America because his artistic style was quite unconventional and eccentric.
Mark Rothko played a key role in the color field movement, and he knew how to demonstrate emotions through appropriate composition using different hues.
Gilbert Stuart was the first famous American painter to make a bold move in favor of the LGBTQ community