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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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
5
Birthdate: November 24, 1864
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Albi, France
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.

 2 
Claude Monet
(Painter)

Claude Monet
13
Birthdate: November 14, 1840
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Rue Laffitte, Paris, France
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.

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Henri Matisse
(Painter)

Henri Matisse
9
Birthdate: December 31, 1869
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France
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 Cezanne
(French Artist and Post-Impressionist Painter)

Paul Cezanne
6
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.

 5 
Paul Gauguin
(Artist)

Paul Gauguin
13
Birthdate: June 7, 1848
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
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.

 6 
Edgar Degas
(Impressionist Painter)

Edgar Degas
7
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.

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir
5
Birthdate: February 25, 1841
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Limoges, France
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 

Édouard Manet
6
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.

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 9 
Marc Chagall
(Artist)

Marc Chagall
5
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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Marcel Duchamp
(Artist Known for His Revolutionary Developments in the 'Plastic Arts' In the Early 20th Century)

Marcel Duchamp
6
Birthdate: July 28, 1887
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Blainville-Crevon, France
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.

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

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Georges Seurat
6
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.

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Hervé Villechaize
4
Birthdate: April 23, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 4, 1993

French-American actor Hervé Villechaize is best remembered for playing the evil henchman in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. Born with dwarfism, he was bullied at school for his condition. After initially working as an artist, painter and photographer, he ventured into acting. He was popular and much loved by the audience.

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Eugène Delacroix
4
Birthdate: April 26, 1798
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Saint-Maurice, 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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Juliette Binoche
4
Birthdate: March 9, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
French actor Juliette Binoche began her career with stage productions. She soared to fame with her Academy Award-winning role of Hana in The English Patient and her Academy Award-nominated role of Vianne in Chocolat. She has also been a marked political activist and has supported the Cambodian charity Enfants d'Asie.

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Camille Pissarro
4
Birthdate: July 10, 1830
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Charlotte Amalie, U.S. 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.

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Gustave Courbet
4
Birthdate: June 10, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ornans, 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.

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Jacques-Louis David
5
Birthdate: August 30, 1748
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
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.

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Auguste Rodin
(Sculptor)

Auguste Rodin
4
Birthdate: November 13, 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.

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Jade Jagger
4
Birthdate: October 21, 1971
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris

Jewelry and home designer Jade Jagger, daughter of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, has also been a model. She launched the fashion brand Jade Inc. and a lifestyle concept called Jezebel. She has also worked for Garrard and designed luxury apartments in New York and Mumbai.

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Christopher Tolkien
6
Birthdate: November 21, 1924
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Leeds, England
Died: January 16, 2020

Christopher Tolkien was a French and English academic editor. The son of legendary author J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher edited much of his father's work, which was published after his father's demise. Christopher Tolkien is also credited with drawing the original maps in, The Lord of the Rings, one of his father's highly acclaimed novels.

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

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Édouard-Henri Avril
4
Birthdate: May 21, 1849
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Algiers [El Djazaïr], 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.

 24 
Georges Braque
(Painter Best Known for Inventing Cubism with Pablo Picasso)

Georges Braque
4
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.

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Françoise Gilot
(Is a French Painter, Best known for her relationship with Pablo Picasso)

Françoise Gilot
4
Birthdate: November 26, 1921
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

Françoise Gilot is a French painter whose professional career was overshadowed by her long and turbulent relationship with Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. After breaking up with Picasso, with whom Gilot had two children, the former deterred galleries from buying her work. He even tried blocking the release of her memoir Life With Picasso which was released in 1964.

 26 
Louise Bourgeois
(Artist Best Known for Her Large-Scale Sculpture and Installation Art)

Louise Bourgeois
6
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.

 27 
Henri Cartier-Bresson
(Photographer and Painter)

Henri Cartier-Bresson
4
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. 

 28 
Camille Claudel
(Sculptor)

Camille Claudel
4
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.

 29 
Jean Giraud
(Artist)

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

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

 31 
Pierre Bonnard
(French Painter and Member of the Post-Impressionist Group of Avant-Garde Painters ‘Les Nabis’)

Pierre Bonnard
4
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.

 32 
Marjane Satrapi
(Graphic Novelist Known for Her Works 'Persepolis' and 'Chicken with Plums')

Marjane Satrapi
4
Birthdate: November 22, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rasht, Iran

Marjane Satrapi is a graphic novelist, illustrator, cartoonist, children's book author, and film director. Satrapi achieved international recognition in the early-2000s after releasing her critically acclaimed graphic novels. She is best known for writing and directing an animated biographical drama film titled Persepolis, which received nominations at prestigious award ceremonies, such as the Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, and Golden Globes.

 33 
Gustave Doré
(Artist Best Known for His Prolific Output of Wood-Engravings and Illustrated Texts)

Gustave Doré
5
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.

 34 
Nicolas Poussin
(French Painter)

Nicolas Poussin
5
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.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau
5
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. 

 36 
Marie Tussaud
(Visual Artist, Wax Sculptor)

Marie Tussaud
4
Birthdate: December 7, 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.

 37 
Dora Maar
(Photographer, Painter)

Dora Maar
4
Birthdate: November 22, 1907
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
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.

 38 
Fernand Léger
(Painter, Sculptor)

Fernand Léger
3
Birthdate: February 4, 1881
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Argentan, France
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.

 39 
Camille Corot
(Painter)

Camille Corot
3
Birthdate: July 16, 1796
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 28, 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.

 40 
Claude Cahun
(Former surrealist photographer, sculptor best known as a writer and self-portraitist, who assumed a variety of performative personae)

Claude Cahun
4
Birthdate: October 25, 1894
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Nantes, France
Died: December 8, 1954

Claude Cahun was a French sculptor, surrealist photographer, and writer. He is best remembered for his work as a self-portraitist and writer. Apart from his primary career, Claude Cahun also played a major role in the Second World War, serving as a propagandist and resistance worker.

Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun
3
Birthdate: April 16, 1755
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: March 30, 1842

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi
4
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.

 43 
Paul Signac
(Painter)

Paul Signac
3
Birthdate: November 11, 1863
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 15, 1935

Paul Signac had initially aspired to become an architect but later deviated to painting. A major figure of the post-Impressionist period, he, along with Georges Seurat, pioneered the technique called pointillism. A sailor and an avid traveler, he mirrored the beauty of the European coasts in his works.

 44 

Jean-François Millet
5
Birthdate: October 4, 1814
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gréville-Hague, La Hague, France
Died: January 20, 1875

 45 

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

 46 

Louis Daguerre
4
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.

 47 
Andre Derain
(Artist)

Andre Derain
3
Birthdate: June 10, 1880
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Garches, France
Died: September 8, 1954

Andre Derain is considered a co-founder of Fauvism, along with fellow artist Henri Matisse, who was one of his classmates at the Académie Carriere. He also created theatrical décor for Ballets Russes and woodcut book illustrations for authors such as Antonin Artaud and André Breton.

 48 
Jean Arp
(German-French-Sculptor Best Known for His Biomorphic Sculptures)

Jean Arp
3
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.

 49 

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

 50 
Claude Lorrain
(French painter, draughtsman and etcher of the Baroque era)

Claude Lorrain
3
Birthdate: 1600 AD
Birthplace: Chamagne, France
Died: November 23, 1682