Famous French Artists & Painters

It's said 'A picture speaks a million words'. Perhaps, this is the reason why painting has been a popular form since time immemorial. The world has produced hundreds of painters, who introduced different styles of art such as modernism and impressionism. Like many European countries, France too has no dearth of individuals known for their virtuosity on the canvas. French painters from the medieval ages were well known for incorporating light in their work to make the paintings seem realistic. One common example seen in many of them was the use of sun rays as a way of illuminating the room. Many renowned photographers claim that they owe their knowledge of light to legendary painters, and the use of light in their work. France has produced some of the world’s finest painters such as Eugène Carrière, Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, and Jean Bardin. Eugene in particular was famous for his self-portrait and the masterpiece ‘Woman leaning on a table’. Many of these paintings are displayed at various museums and art galleries. Tourists continue to flock these places to see these great pieces of art even today. We present to you a collection of biographies of some of the most famous French painters. Find out all about their life stories, timelines and also few interesting facts & trivia related to their lives.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh.
29
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: March 30, 1853
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Zundert, Netherlands
Died: July 29, 1890

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter and is said to be one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. However, he was not commercially successful in his lifetime and died by suicide at 37 after years of mental health issues and poverty. He gained recognition and respect in the 20th century.

 2 Claude Monet

Claude Monet.
6
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: November 14, 1840
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris
Died: December 5, 1926

Claude Monet was a French painter. The founder of French Impressionist painting, Monet's painting Impression, soleil levant gave rise to the term Impressionism. Often dubbed the driving force behind Impressionism, Monet mastered the art of painting the same scene several times so as to capture the changing of the light. Since his death, his paintings have sold for record prices.

 3 Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse.
5
Famous As: Painter, Sculptor
Birthdate: December 31, 1869
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Nord
Died: November 3, 1954

Henri Matisse was a French artist. Although he was known for his skills as a painter, Matisse was also a renowned sculptor, printmaker, and draughtsman. Along with Picasso, Matisse is regarded as one of the artists who contributed immensely to the revolutionary developments in visual arts. His works also influenced other painters who would adopt a technique called intense colorism.

 4 Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin.
7
Famous As: Artist - Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Engraving
Birthdate: June 7, 1848
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris
Died: May 8, 1903
French Post-Impressionist artist, sculptor, and writer Paul Gauguin was a major figure in the Symbolist movement. He had worked as a stockbroker and businessman before gaining fame as an artist. He influenced the French avant-garde and modern artists such as Pablo Picasso and also led the way for Primitivism.

 5 Paul Cezanne

Paul Cezanne.
4
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: January 9, 1839
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Aix-en-Provence, France
Died: October 22, 1906

French artist Paul Cézanne was a prominent Post-Impressionist painter and influenced much of the early-20th-century movement known as Cubism. Some of his notable works include The Card Players, The Bathers, and Pyramid of Skulls. He experimented with water colors and had created a host of still-life paintings.

 6 Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas.
5
Famous As: Impressionist Painter
Birthdate: July 19, 1834
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 27, 1917

French Impressionist artist Edgar Degas is best remembered for his oil paintings and pastel drawings and for his signature use of dancers and bathing women as themes in his works such as Fin d'Arabesque and Woman in a Tub. He had also experimented with bronze sculptures and called himself a realist.

 7 Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: February 25, 1841
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Limoges
Died: December 3, 1919

French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, father of actor Pierre Renoir and director Jean Renoir, was a key Impressionist painter. His best-known works include The Swing, Diana, and Seated Girl. He was known for his use of vibrant colors and feminine sensuality in his works. He also painted landscapes and portraits.

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 8 Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall.
4
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: July 6, 1887
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lizona, Belarus
Died: March 28, 1985

Russian-French artist Marc Chagall, a key figure of modernism, had explored a wide range of media as an artist, from paintings and drawings to stained glass and ceramics. His major projects included the ceiling of the Paris Opéra, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Jerusalem Windows of Israel.

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 9 Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp.
5
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: July 28, 1887
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Blainville-Crevon
Died: October 2, 1968
French-American painter and sculptor Marcel Duchamp is remembered for his association with movements such as Cubism and Dadaism. A significant figure in conceptual art, he was against art that was meant to just cater to the eyes. He was also a skilled chess player and carved his own chess set.

 10 Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet.
6
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: January 23, 1832
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 30, 1883

Édouard Manet was a French painter who played a key role in the transition to Impressionism from Realism in the 19th-century. Manet was one of the first artists from his generation to paint modern life. His early masterworks, such as Olympia, served as rallying points for young and aspiring impressionist painters. His works continue to influence painters around the world.

 11 Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat.
6
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: December 2, 1859
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: March 29, 1891

A significant figure of the Post-Impressionist era, Georges Seurat depicted structured art, far removed from the free-flowing Impressionist art. Best known for techniques such as pointillism, he created masterpieces such as Bathers at Asnières. He died before his last exhibition ended, and eerily displayed an unfinished painting, Cirque.

 12 Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix.
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: April 26, 1798
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Charenton-Saint-Maurice, Île-de-France, France
Died: August 13, 1863

Eugène Delacroix was a French Romantic artist who is widely regarded as the patriarch of the French Romantic school. As a muralist and painter, Delacroix's study of the optical effects of color inspired the work of the Impressionists. In fact, his work inspired a generation of impressionists.

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 13 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: November 24, 1864
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Albi
Died: September 9, 1901
French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was one of the most significant figures of the Post-Impressionist period. He was also an illustrator and poster painter, who was known for his colorful depictions of cabaret from Paris's Moulin Rouge. His painting The Laundress sold for US$22.4 million at a 2005 Christie’s auction.

 14 Jacques-Louis David

Jacques-Louis David.
4
Famous As: Neoclassical Style Painter
Birthdate: August 30, 1748
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris
Died: December 29, 1825

Jacques-Louis David was a French painter. Widely regarded as the greatest painter of the Neoclassical era, David's works had a strong influence in France in the early-19th century. His works are often linked to the birth of Romanticism. Many of his pupils, such as Antoine-Jean Gros and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, went on to become successful and popular painters.

 15 Camille Pissarro

Camille Pissarro.
4
Famous As: Painter, Printmaker
Birthdate: July 10, 1830
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, Danish West Indies (now US Virgin Islands)
Died: November 13, 1903

Camille Pissarro was a Danish-French painter best remembered for his contributions to Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, and Post-Impressionism. He is credited with establishing a group of 15 aspiring artists, for which he served as a pivotal figure. He was regarded as a father figure to several important painters, including Vincent Willem van Gogh.

 16 Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet.
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: June 10, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ornans, Doubs, France
Died: December 31, 1877
Born to a farmer in eastern France, Gustave Courbet was initially gearing up to study law but later deviated to art. He started by copying Spanish painters and later rebelled against Romanticism, focusing on real-life subjects around him instead and thus developing 19th-century Realism.

 17 Auguste Rodin

Auguste Rodin.
4
Famous As: Sculptor
Birthdate: November 12, 1840
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 17, 1917
Initially aspiring to be a monk, Auguste Rodin found his true calling when he visited Italy and was awestruck by Michelangelo’s creations. His iconic sculptures such as The Thinker and The Age of Bronze are astoundingly life-like. He breathed magic into nudes and ballerinas made of stone and bronze.

 18 Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois.
4
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: December 25, 1911
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 31, 2010

Louise Bourgeois was a French-American artist best remembered for her large-scale installation art and sculpture. Also a prolific printmaker and painter, Bourgeois explored a variety of themes, such as sexuality and death. In 1997, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts. In 2009, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 19 Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier.
8
Famous As: Architect
Birthdate: October 6, 1887
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: La Chaux-de-Fonds
Died: August 27, 1965

Le Corbusier was a Swiss-French designer, painter, architect, writer, and urban planner. He was one of the pioneers of modern architecture. During his illustrious career, which spanned 50 years, Le Corbusier designed buildings in India, Japan, Europe, and North and South America. He is also credited with revolutionizing urban planning.  

 20 Georges Braque

Georges Braque
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: May 13, 1882
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Argenteuil, France
Died: August 31, 1963

French painter Georges Braque is considered one of the pioneers of Cubism. His 1908 masterpiece Large Nude is one of his most celebrated pieces. Critics often argue whether Braque or Picasso had first begun developing Cubism, and many of their works are very similar in nature.

 21 Françoise Gilot

Françoise Gilot
4
Famous As: Painter, Choreographer, Model
Birthdate: November 26, 1921
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine

 22 Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson.
4
Famous As: Photographer and Painter
Birthdate: August 22, 1908
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chanteloup-en-Brie, France
Died: August 3, 2004

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French humanist photographer. Considered a master of candid photography, he pioneered the genre of street photography. He was among the earliest users of the 35 mm film. In 1947, he became one of the founding members of Magnum Photos, an international photographic cooperative. In his later years, he explored drawing and painting. 

 23 Camille Claudel

Camille Claudel.
4
Famous As: Sculptor
Birthdate: December 8, 1864
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Fère-en-Tardenois, France
Died: October 19, 1943

French sculptor Camille Claudel is also popularly known as legendary sculptor Auguste Rodin’s student, mistress, and muse. Claudel also contributed to many of Rodin’s masterpieces but never got any credit for it. After her relationship with Rodin soured, she became alienated and eventually died in an asylum.

 24 Henri Rousseau

Henri Rousseau
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: May 21, 1844
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Laval, France
Died: September 2, 1910

 25 Édouard-Henri Avril

Édouard-Henri Avril.
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: May 21, 1849
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Algiers, Algeria
Died: July 28, 1928

Before he revolutionized 19th-century erotica as Paul Avril, Édouard-Henri Avril was a soldier. An injury sustained in the Franco-Prussian War cut short his military life, and he was pushed into Paris sex salons to study art. His most notable works, such as the illustrations for Fanny Hill, were largely banned.

 26 Gustave Doré

Gustave Doré
4
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: January 6, 1832
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France
Died: January 23, 1883

Best known for his wood-engraving, Gustave Doré was a child prodigy who began his artwork at the tender age of 5. A master lithographer and caricaturist, he began his career with Journal pour Rire. He also worked on commissions from authors such as Cervantes, Milton, and Dante.

 27 Nicolas Poussin

Nicolas Poussin.
5
Famous As: French Painter
Birthdate: June 15, 1594
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Near Les Andelys, Normandy, Kingdom of France (now France)
Died: November 19, 1665

The founder of the French Classical tradition, painter Nicolas Poussin was initially influenced by Venetian art but later deviated to antiquity. Most of his paintings showcased historical, mythological, biblical elements but some were also inspired by landscapes and poetry. The Death of the Virgin remains one of his best-known works.

 28 William-Adolphe Bouguereau

William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: November 30, 1825
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: La Rochelle, France
Died: August 19, 1905

William-Adolphe Bouguereau was a French academic painter who enjoyed significant popularity in the United States and France. Renowned for his realistic genre paintings, which focused on the beauty of the female human body, Bouguereau received top prices for his paintings and numerous official honors during his lifetime. 

 29 Dora Maar

Dora Maar
4
Famous As: Photographer, Artist, Painter, Poet, Choreographer, Sculptor, Model
Birthdate: November 22, 1907
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: July 16, 1997

Born to a French mother and a Croatian father, Dora Maar spent her childhood in Argentina and later studied art in Paris. The renowned surrealist artist and photographer later gained fame as Pablo Picasso’s lover and muse, and was featured in his paintings such as Weeping Woman.

 30 Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: August 29, 1780
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Montauban, France
Died: January 14, 1867

 31 Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi
4
Famous As: Sculptor
Birthdate: August 2, 1834
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Colmar, France
Died: October 4, 1904

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was a French painter and sculptor remembered for designing the Statue of Liberty. He is also credited with designing other iconic statues like The Lion of Belfort and Marquis de Lafayette. In addition to being a sculptor, Bartholdi also played an important role in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, serving as a liaison officer to Giuseppe Garibaldi.

 32 Jean-François Millet

Jean-François Millet
4
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: October 4, 1814
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gréville-Hague, La Hague, France
Died: January 20, 1875

 33 Marie Tussaud

Marie Tussaud.
4
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: December 1, 1761
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France
Died: April 16, 1850

Marie Tussaud was a French artist and sculptor best remembered for her wax sculptures. She founded Madame Tussauds, a wax museum, in London in 1835. The museum is a major tourist attraction today. As a young girl, she learned wax modeling from doctor cum wax modeler Philippe Curtius. In the ensuing years, she became a prominent sculptor.

 34 Théodore Géricault

Théodore Géricault
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: September 26, 1791
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rouen, France
Died: January 26, 1824

 35 Jean Giraud

Jean Giraud
4
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: May 8, 1938
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nogent-sur-Marne, France
Died: March 10, 2012

 36 Fernand Léger

Fernand Léger.
3
Famous As: Cubist Painter
Birthdate: February 4, 1881
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Argentan
Died: August 17, 1955

Fernand Léger was a French sculptor, painter, and filmmaker. Widely regarded as the forerunner of pop art, Léger was also active as a teacher for several years. He is also credited with establishing his own Académie Fernand Léger, where he taught for many years. Many of his pupils went on to establish themselves as successful artists.

 37 Camille Corot

Camille Corot.
3
Famous As: French painter
Birthdate: July 16, 1796
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 22, 1875

French painter Camille Corot is remembered for his landscape paintings that paved the path for the Impressionist movement. Born into a milliner’s family, Corot was a poor student and shunned his family business to learn painting at 25. His works, however, were easy to replicate and led to many forgeries.

 38 Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: January 14, 1841
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bourges, France
Died: March 2, 1895

 39 Jean Arp

Jean Arp
3
Famous As: Sculptor
Birthdate: September 16, 1886
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France
Died: June 7, 1966

Jean Arp was born in Strasbourg, to a German father and a French mother. After studying art in Paris and Switzerland, he co-created The Modern Alliance and participated in the Dada and Abstraction-Création movements. An avant-garde painter and sculptor, he also experimented with media such as embroidery.

 40 Yves Klein

Yves Klein
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: April 28, 1928
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: June 6, 1962

 41 Louis Daguerre

Louis Daguerre.
4
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: November 18, 1787
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cormeilles-en-Parisis, France
Died: July 10, 1851
Remembered for his invention of the daguerreotype, or the first process of photography, which could develop pictures in just 20 to 30 minutes, Louis Daguerre had humble beginnings as revenue officer and then an opera scene painter. He was also instrumental in setting up the first diorama theater.

 42 Jean-Leon Gerome

Jean-Leon Gerome
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: May 11, 1824
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Vesoul, Haute-Saône, France
Died: January 10, 1904

 43 Mr. Brainwash

Mr. Brainwash
4
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: 1966 AD
Birthplace: Garges-lès-Gonesse, France

 44 Claude Lorrain

Claude Lorrain
3
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: 1600 AD
Birthplace: Vosges
Died: November 23, 1682

 45 Pierre Bonnard

Pierre Bonnard.
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: October 3, 1867
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Fontenay-aux-Roses, France
Died: January 23, 1947

French painter Pierre Bonnard was part of Les Nabis and later led the Intimists. Known for his love for bright colors, he painted a range of subjects, from domestic scenes to nudes, and could even paint from memory. Though a womanizer, Bonnard was married to his muse Marthe de Méligny.

 46 Georges de La Tour

Georges de La Tour
3
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: March 13, 1593
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Vic-sur-Seille
Died: January 30, 1652

 47 Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle.
4
Famous As: Sculptor
Birthdate: October 29, 1930
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Died: May 21, 2002

Niki de Saint Phalle was a French-American painter, sculptor, and filmmaker. She gained prominence as a monumental sculptor as not many women were renowned for their skills as monumental sculptors. Also remembered for her social work, Niki was one of the earliest artists to spread awareness about AIDS through art. She also wrote extensively in English and French.

 48 Jean Marais

Jean Marais
3
Famous As: Film actor, Actor, Sculptor, Painter, Theatre director, Film director, Autobiographer
Birthdate: December 11, 1913
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cherbourg-Octeville
Died: November 8, 1998

French actor Jean Marais was not only a long-time collaborator of director Jean Cocteau but was also his lover. After being rejected by the Paris Conservatory, he studied photography and later got only small roles, until Cocteau roped him in for lead roles in films such as Beauty and the Beast.

 49 Jean-Honore Fragonard

Jean-Honore Fragonard
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: April 5, 1732
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Grasse, France
Died: August 22, 1806

 50 Odilon Redon

Odilon Redon
3
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: April 20, 1840
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bordeaux, France
Died: July 6, 1916