There are a few artists, both living and dead, that have influenced us to see art differently. In the late 19th century, art began to move away from and challenge realistic depictions. Since then, a variety of styles and influences have made their mark on artists and transferred that vision to us, as viewers. Here are five of those important artists, all of whom are no longer alive.
1. Frida Kahlo
With a life marked by drama, tragedy and trauma, Frida Kahlo, who is often called a surrealist, painted in vibrant colors and frank images. Her works were often disturbing, exploring her own personal experience of pain, sexuality and identity. Without apologies, she revealed her own vision, drawing us into her experience with passion.
2. Andy Wharhol
Think of a soup can and you might think of Andy Wharhol. His famous painting of this can was one of the examples of pop art that became very widespread in the 1960s. Wharhol once said in an 1966 article in The East Village Other,
“If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”
Bringing art to the masses, through the use of the print medium as well as film during his lifetime, his dramatic life also became known to the people. His work was influenced by celebrity and brand images; Wharhol focused on consumer goods and pop-culture icons. He saw it as a contradiction, as he criticized American culture, yet became wealthy because of it.
Andy Wharhol is considered one of the most prolific artists of his time and has influence art, performance, film making, video installations and more. He was instrumental in blurring the line that distinguishes fine art and the aesthetics of the mainstream.
3. Jackson Pollock
Pollock rejected the narrative style and left the subjects behind. He explored the paint medium in itself, with the dripping and throwing of paint. His work went on to influence a whole generation of abstract artists, an influence we still see today. His work, rather than telling a story, reflects his relationship with the medium of paint without the tools of the brush.
Believing in the power of the subconscious, he created his own language of art with the influences of European Surrealism, Native American sand painting, American regionalism and the genre of Mexican Murals. With his direct painting, he influenced the international art community and how we see abstract art today.
4. Henri Matisse
Decorative art and the development of the plastic arts have been highly influenced by Henri Matisse, who brought bold color and expressive language to painting. Originally one of the Fauves or “wild beasts”, he helped to open the doors of 20th century art with simple images that were playful and delightful. This was during the age of World Wars I and II, when dark threats held over Europe. Later using collage when he was wheelchair-bound, he created books and illustrations with cut paper.
Designing stained-glass windows for the Union Church of Pocantico Hills in New York, as his last project, he had a tremendous influence for those who came after him, including Georgia O’Keeffe and Jackson Pollock. The kids of the modern world get to see the influence of Henri Matisse that is still a force in children’s books, while we see his influence in advertising design and decoration.
5. Keith Haring
In the 1980s and the days of the Aids epidemic, Keith Haring was an artist who became an activist and mural artist to challenge the stigmas of the day. His work centered around sexuality, life and death and the AIDS epidemic. Seeing his art, on street corners and along walls, made an impact on the everyday life of those who passed by. Because of Haring, with such works as Silence = Death, Haring made us think, and his work is still appreciated today.
We learn from these 5 artists that art does not always have to be idyllic, pretty, peaceful or beautiful realistic depictions of objects and nature. Because of their daring and by exploring their own visions and needs, they have changed the way that we see art.