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9 Famous French Painters You Should Know

Auguste Renoir

Famous French Painters

“Bal du moulin de la Galette” by Auguste Renoir, 1876. Via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}}

In characteristic Impressionist style, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s freely-brushed paintings depict vibrant social scenes. One of his most celebrated masterpieces, Bal du moulin de la Galette, illustrates a Sunday afternoon at the Moulin de la Galette in the district of Montmartre, Paris. Nineteenth century, working class Parisians are pictured dancing, drinking, and eating French galettes (savoury crêpes).


Camille Pissarro

Famous French Painters

“Place du Théâtre-Francais and the Avenue de l’Opéra, Sunlight, Winter Morning” by Camille Pissarro, 1898. (Image via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Interestingly, Camille Pissarro contributed to both Impressionism and the reactionary movement against it, Post-Impressionism. Much like other artists of the time, Pissarro’s work was mocked and rejected by critics. He and his friends, such as fellow greats Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne created a group that were exhibited at the Salon des Refusés (Exhibition of Rejects), as an alternative to the mainstream Salon de Paris.

During the latter part of his career, Pissarro created a series of oil paintings depicting French cityscapes at different times of the day and during various weather conditions.


Post-Impressionist Artists

Encompassing a wide range of artistic styles, the Post-Impressionist movement grew from a new wave of artists and their response to the Impressionist movement. Developed during the 1890s, rather than painting visual impressions of everyday life, Post-Impressionist painters often strived to express their own inner psychic feelings, often through the use of symbolism and vivid color. The work of these artists later lead to Cubism and Abstract Expressionism.

Henri Rousseau

Famous French Painters

“The Dream” by Henri Rousseau. (Image via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Famous French Painters

“The Equatorial Jungle” by Henri Rousseau. (Image via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Even though he never once left his home country, French Post-Impressionist painter Henri Rousseau is most well-known for his nature-inspired exotic jungle scenes. He was inspired by illustrations in children’s books and the botanical gardens of Paris. Self-taught with no formal training, Rousseau is considered to be a naïve painter, and his work was often ridiculed by critics who claimed he painted like a child. Today, his work is highly celebrated and has influenced many modern artists.


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Famous French Painters

“Marcelle Lender Dancing the Bolero in ‘Chilpéric’” 1895-1896 by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. (Image via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Famous French Painters

“At the Moulin Rouge” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 1892, 1895. (Image via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

French painter, printmaker, draughtsman, caricaturist, and illustrator, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is among the best known painters of the Post-Impressionist period. A master at capturing crowds, his most famous works include depictions of the colorful, lively, and sometimes decadent lives of Parisians during the 19th century. During his 20-year career he produced almost 1000 paintings, countless drawings, and even ceramics and stained glass works.

His oil-on-canvas painting At the Moulin Rouge, 1892-1895 depicts his dancer and photographer friends at the Moulin Rouge cabaret in Paris. In the background, on the right, you can see Toulouse-Lautrec himself.


Paul Gauguin

Famous French Painters

“Tahitian Women on the Beach” by Paul Gauguin, 1891. (Image via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Famous French Painters

“Where Are You Going?, or Woman Holding a Fruit” by Paul Gauguin, 1893. (Image via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

One of the most significant French painters of the Post-Impressionist movement, Paul Gauguin experimented with new color theories and new stylistic approaches to painting. He famously worked alongside Vincent Van Gogh during a summer in the south of France, before abandoning his life in Western society altogether. In the early 1890s, he began traveling regularly to the south Pacific where he developed a new style that married his day-to-day observations with mythical symbolism. This style was strongly influenced by the so-called “primitive” arts of Africa, Asia, and French Polynesia.


Paul Cézanne

Famous French Painters

“Apples and Oranges” by Paul Cézanne, 1895-1900. (Image via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Paul Cézanne’s Post-Impressionist paintings depicted his intense studies of his subjects. Most famous for his still life paintings, his distinctive brushstrokes and use of color laid the foundations for a radically different art world in the 20th century. Like most artists of the time, his work was ridiculed by critics and rejected by galleries. Yet, he was admired by younger artists who visited his studio in Aix, who considered him a master.


Related Articles:

How Impressionism Changed the Art World and Continues to Inspire Us Today

6 Important Impressionist Painters Who Shaped the Iconic Movement

Exploring the Vision and Diverse Styles of Post-Impressionism Pioneers

What is Modern Art? Exploring the Movements That Define the Groundbreaking Genre

Cubism: How Picasso and Others Broke From Tradition to Transform Modern Art


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