8 Renaissance Artists Whose Work Transformed the Art World

Renaissance Artists Italian Renaissance Northern Renaissance Art

Viewed as a much-needed revival of art and culture, the Renaissance played a pivotal role in ushering Europe out of its Dark Ages and into a world of enlightenment. Beginning in the 14th century and coming to an end in the 17th, this “golden age” swept the continent, culminating in two distinctive yet unified art movements:  the Italian Renaissance and the Northern Renaissance.

Starting in 1400, the Italian Renaissance reawakened Italy's interest in classical antiquity. Though it influenced and inspired the Northern Renaissance, many artists based north of the Alps—namely, in Flanders and the Netherlands—were already embracing humanism and secular subject matter in 14th century.

While numerous figures shaped both the Italian and the Northern Renaissance, today, a select few are particularly praised for their contributions to Europe's “golden age.” Here, we present these artists and take a look their most well-known masterpieces.

Northern Renaissance Artists

Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Today, painter and printmaker Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525-1569) is regarded as the master of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance art. With a penchant for painting scenes of lower-class life—evident in Netherlandish Proverbs—on top of more common religious iconography (like the tower of Babel) he is esteemed for his unique approach to subject matter. Additionally, his crowded canvases are distinctive for their detail and, with their beautiful backdrops (like the icy peaks in The Hunters in the Snow), their influence on modern landscape painting.

Famous Renaissance Artists Bruegel the Elder The Hunters in the Snow (Winter)

‘The Hunters in the Snow' (1565) (Photo: Google Art Project via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Famous Renaissance Artists Bruegel the Elder Tower of Babel

‘The Tower of Babel' (1563) (Photo: Google Art Project via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Famous Renaissance Artists Bruegel the Elder Netherlandish Proverbs

‘Netherlandish Proverbs' (1559) (Photo: Google Art Project via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Jan van Eyck

Bruges-based painter Jan van Eyck (c. 1390-1441) was an Early Netherlandish painter and key figure of the Northern Renaissance. Though only 20 paintings are attributed to the artist, his work is among the most well-known Dutch art.

Like other Netherlandish artists, van Eyck had an eye for detail and a knack for naturalism, evident in oil paintings like The Arnolfini Portrait—so detailed that it features a hidden self-portrait—and the Lucca Madonna.

Famous Renaissance Artists Van Eyck The Arnolfini Portrait

‘The Arnolfini Portrait' (1434) (Photo: National Gallery UK via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Famous Renaissance Artists Van Eyck Lucca Madonna

‘Lucca Madonna' (1437) (Photo: Google Art Project via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

On top of his works on canvas, van Eyck is also celebrated for his Ghent Altarpiece. A wooden piece with many panels, the Ghent Altarpiece features richly painted scenes from the Old and New Testament. The masterpiece has been housed in St. Bavo's Cathedral, a Gothic church in Ghent, since 1432.

Famous Renaissance Artists Van Eyck The Ghent Altarpiece

‘The Ghent Altarpiece' (c. 1430–1432) (Photo: Web Gallery of Art via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Hieronymus Bosch

Dutch draughtsman, painter, and master of the triptych Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516) is known for his narrative-rich panel paintings that feature iconography ranging from whimsical to grotesque. Rendered in intricate detail, his most famous pieces, The Garden of Earthly Delights, The Last Judgment, and The Temptation of Saint Anthony, each mix a menagerie of surreal creatures with lesson-laden Biblical themes.

Famous Renaissance Artists Bosch The Garden of Earthly Delights

‘The Garden of Earthly Delights' (c. 1480-1505) (Photo: The Prado in Google Earth via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Famous Renaissance Artists Bosch The Last Judgment

‘The Last Judgment' (1482-1516) (Photo: statenvertaling.net via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-US}})

Famous Renaissance Artists Bosch The Temptation of Saint Anthony

‘The Temptation of Saint Anthony' (c. 1495-1515)
Photo: Bosch Universe via Wikimedia Commons

Page 1/2

Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content