“I am against limitations like perspective. Perspective is illusion, it's the opposite of presence, and art is presence.” - Pierre Soulages
A lot of Brits are interested in modern art. While self-portraits, oil paintings, still life, etc. are often popular, abstract art and new artistic movements aren’t always enjoyed or appreciated by the general public.
After fauvism, cubism, surrealism, and impressionism, contemporary artists in the 20th century struggled to gain recognition.
But do we really know them?
Monet, Duchamp, Klimt, Modigliani, Caillebotte, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Gauguin, Kandinsky, van Gogh, Cézanne, Pissarro, Warhol, etc.
Who are the famous painters who came after these geniuses?
With the arrival of photographs, modern artists started looking at abstraction and different ways to represent the world on paper, canvas, or any other medium. Art became more figurative and less realistic. With that in mind, here are the famous modern artists whose works are the envy of every museum of art and collector around the world.
Born in 1932 in Dresden, Germany, Gerhard Richter is one of the most famous contemporary artists in the world. In 2012, one of his works sold for 34.2 million dollars. This record was broken the following year with a price of 37 million dollars.
The German painter has been famous in the art world since the 80s. His rather abstract style included figurative subjects. He learnt to paint in the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts where he developed his skill for abstract art. He then taught in several art schools around the world.
Contemporary Painters: Yan Pei-Ming
Born in 1960 in Shanghai, Yan Pei-Ming is a Chinese artist born to a working-class family. At 20, he left China during the cultural revolution and moved to France. He studied in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Dijon and then in the Institut des Hautes études en arts plastiques de Paris.
As a naturalised French citizen, Yan Pei-Ming now lived in Dijon and Paris. He was fortunate enough to take up residence in the Villa Medici in Rome where he developed his artistic style.
Today, the artist is famous for his large portraits. His painting of Barack Obama is one of his most famous works. A lot of his paintings cover the subject of war.
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Yue Minjun was born in China in 1962. He studied in Hebei Normal University before drawing portraits of his colleagues in the early 80s.
Today, Yue Minjun lives in Beijing and creates works that are famous around the world. He is part of the cynical realism movement. His paintings are recognisable due to their worrying smiles. Laughter is one of his main themes and his work often denounces uniformisation in Chinese society. He is one of the younger recognised artists of our time.
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Born in Golfe-Juan, France, in 1936, Martial Raysse now works in Dordogne, France. His works have made him one of the most famous contemporary artists. After an exhibition alongside Jean Cocteau in 1958, he headed for the United States of America where he joined the pop art movement. At the start of the 60s, he was briefly part of the Nouveau Réalistes. He didn’t hang around for long.
Martial Raysse is also a sculptor who uses everyday plastic objects to represent our consumer culture.
In 2014, there was an exhibition dedicated to him in the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
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Born in Germany in 1945, Anselm Kiefer couldn’t escape the post-war feeling in the country and you can see it in his work. Now living in France, the painter started by studying law and literature in Germany before training as an artist in various German art academies.
Anselm Kiefer became famous by taking photos of himself doing the Nazi salute in different European cities. His goal was to alert people that Nazism was still present in Europe. During a time of high tension, he also wanted to break the taboos of the time.
War became his main subject. He explained himself by saying:
“History speaks to artists. It changes the artist's thinking and is constantly reshaping it into different and unexpected images.”
Earth, ashes, soot, or sand, his works regularly display the chaos of the Second World War and the Holocaust. The artist declared himself part of the post-romantic movement.
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Current Artists: Philippe Garel
Born in France in 1945, Philippe Garel started studying art in the Ecole des beaux-arts de Quimper, then in Rennes, and finally in Paris. From 1962 to 1968, the young artists learnt the basics of painting and art in general and exhibited in the Biennale des jeunes de Paris art festival in 1967.
The French artist became famous and started doing exhibitions all over the world. Paris, Madrid, Munich, New York, Brussels, Bologna, Milan, Rome, Turin, Geneva, and Amsterdam all exhibited his work.
He taught for 25 years in the École régionale des Beaux-arts de Rouen before being elected into the Académie des beaux-arts in 2015.
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One of the biggest representatives of contemporary French painting, Gérard Garouste was born in Paris in 1946. A painter, engraver, and sculptor, this artist spent his life between Paris and Normandy.
Most of his pieces are on the topic of heritage, myths, and culture. The intergenerational transmission of things is an obsession of his. Inspired by the Bible and popular stories, Gérard Garouste fills his canvases with fantastical animals and characters.
Born in 1957 in Mallorca, Spain, Miquel Barcelo is a world-famous contemporary artist. As well as a designer, engraver, and sculptor, he’s also a member of the neo-expressionist movement. While he’s widely known for his sculptures, Miquel Barcelo is first-and-foremost a painter.
He became popular in the 80s with his exhibition in Axe Art Actuel in Toulouse, France. He started to meet famous artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and make a name for himself in the art world. He was thus thrust into the limelight.
Modern Painters: Vladimir Veličković
Born in Belgrade in Yugoslavia in 1935, Vladimir Veličković started by studying architecture in 1960 before becoming a painter and doing his first exhibition in 1963. Success came quickly and he obtained the Biennale de Paris prize in 1965. In 1967, he gained widespread attention. His works are what we call “narrative figuration”.
The artist tries to describe the atrocities he experienced as a child during the war. His works portray the human body as well as violent war scenes. His tormented style was popular and Vladimir Veličković became popular all over the world. He taught in the Ecole Nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris for several years.
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Born in Germany ion 1938, Georg Baselitz’s upside-down motifs have helped viewers lose their minds. The artist grew up in Soviet-occupied territory before studying in West Germany where his career took off. A famous German neo-expressionist painter, his canvases brought him a lot of success. The artist now teaches at the Berlin University of the Arts.
Pierre Soulages was born in France in 1919 and has painted over 1,500 works throughout his career. He’s famous in the world of abstract art for his use of black. His works tend to use long strokes of the colour.
Pierre Soulages is exhibited all over the world in huge exhibitions.
Born in Cape Town in 1953, Marlene Dumas headed to the Netherlands in 1976 to study art at the Ateliers ‘63 in Haarlem. She then gave up art for a few years in order to study psychology. She finally exhibited her works in Paris in 1979 and became known in the Paris art scene.
Inspired by the racist events in South Africa, literature, and sexuality, she is part of the expressionist movement. In order to express the themes dear to her, Marlene Dumas generally uses the human body. You can see this in most of her works.
Of course, one article isn't enough to mention all the great artists of the modern era. There's also Picasso, Pollock, Keefe, etc.
If you want to learn more about modern and contemporary art, you can always visit an art museum and see the different works of art on display. As long as you live in a moderately-sized city, you'll probably be able to visit an art gallery with a decent permanent collection of artworks. If not, sometimes even smaller cities borrow temporary collections from bigger museums and galleries.
Art museums aren't the only place you can learn about the visual arts, you can also get in touch with a private tutor to teach you about art history, fine art, expressionism, prints, American art, modernism, abstract expressionism, renaissance, or the masters. Whatever you want to learn about, you can find a tutor to help you with both painting and sculpture.