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There is no better way to express yourself than through art. Some people love books, some music and some enjoy the definition of art – paintings. No matter if you are trying to be an artist yourself or if you just enjoy other people’s work, art helps us go through emotions and lets us see and feel beauty. There are so many famous artists and painters and the French ones definitely left their mark on the world.

Paintings let us see the world through the painter’s eyes and they take us on new journeys, ones that we’ve never been on before. You probably already know a lot of painters and you admire their work. But do you know where those painters come from?

We are going to help you learn which are the most famous French painters and how their brushes changed the world. You probably didn’t know that all of them originated from France.

Edgar Degas

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Lifespan: July 19, 1834 – September 27, 1917

Known For: Painting & Sculpture

Masterpiece: The Absinthe Drinker (1876)

Other Famous Works:

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (1881)

The Dance Class (1874)

Degas described himself as a Realist, but he is actually considered a member of the Impressionist movement. He is famous for his paintings, but he is also well known for his prints, sculptures, and drawings. One this that Degas was especially talented for, is capturing the beauty of dance.

Degas’ paintings of ballerinas in motion express his visual experiences and momentarily observations during dance classes and rehearsals.

The famous French painter continuously explored the subject of dance from the 1870s until his death, and that accounts for a large portion of his work.

Claude Monet

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Lifespan: November 14, 1840 – December 5, 1926

Known For: Painting

Masterpiece: Water Lilies series (1896 – 1926)

Other Famous Works:

Impression, Sunrise (1872)

Rouen Cathedral series (1892 – 1893)

Monet is called the father of Impressionism because both the movement’s title and the artistic style was derived from one of his paintings – Impression, Soleil levant (English: Impression, Sunrise), exhibited in 1874.

This painter is famous for capturing the French countryside, and one thing that Monet is especially famous for is the water lily ponds. The artist was able to perfectly capture how the sunlight affected his subjects with a distinct paint stroke style and color palette.

He was dedicated to finding improved methods of painterly expression. Monet broke tradition in terms of light, colors, and shapes. suggests that some of his series explored how steam, smoke, rain, and mist affected visibility and color.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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Lifespan: February 25, 1841 – December 3, 1919

Known For: Painting

Masterpiece: Dance at Le moulin de la Galette (1876)

Other Famous Works:

Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881)

The Large Bathers (1887)

This famous French painter used the characteristic Impressionist style to freely-brush his paintings depict vibrant social scenes.

In one of his most celebrated and well-known masterpieces, Bal du moulin de la Galette, he illustrates a Sunday afternoon at the Moulin de la Galette in the district of Montmartre, Paris. This painting is described as the most beautiful painting of the 19th century.

The 19th-century working-class Parisians are pictured eating French galettes (savory crêpes), drinking and dancing.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir is most known for his depictions of women, nudes and dance paintings as well as evolving Parisian society and domestic scenes.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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Lifespan: November 24, 1864 – September 9, 1901

Known For: Illustration, Painting & Printmaking

Masterpiece: Moulin Rouge: La Goulue (1891)

Other Famous Works:

In the Salon of the Rue des Moulins (1894)

In Bed The Kiss (1892)

This French caricaturist, printmaker, painter, draughtsman, and illustrator is one of the best-known painters of the Post-Impressionist period.

He was a master of capturing crowds and his most famous works include depictions of the lively, colorful and sometimes decadent lives of Parisians during the 19th century.

During his 20-year career, he produced about 1000 paintings, countless number of drawings and even stained glass works and ceramics.

His oil-on-canvas painting, At the Moulin Rouge, 1892-1895 depicts his photographer and dancer friends at the Moulin Rouge cabaret in Paris. Did you know that in the background of the painting, on the right, you can see Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec himself?

Paul Gauguin

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Lifespan: June 7, 1848 – May 8, 1903

Known For: Painting & Sculpture

Masterpiece: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1898)

Other Famous Works:

Spirit of the Dead Watching (1892)

The Yellow Christ (1889)

We could say that Gauguin is one of the most recognized French painters of the Post-Impressionist movement. He experimented with new stylistic approaches and new color theories to painting.

It is said that Gauguin famously worked alongside Van Gogh during a summer in the South of France. After that summer he abandoned his life in Western society altogether.

In the next chapter of his life, in the early 1890s, he began traveling regularly to the South Pacific. There he developed a new style that combined his day-to-day observations with mythical symbolism. That style was strongly influenced by the primitive arts of Asia, Africa, and French Polynesia.

In February 2015, Gauguin’s painting When Will You Marry? was sold for about US $300 million, making it the most expensive piece of art ever sold.


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Other famous French painters include:

  • Camille Pissarro
  • Henri Rousseau
  • Edouard Manet
  • Paul Cézanne
  • Marcel Duchamp
  • Henri Matisse

Who is your favorite painter? Everyone wants to be able to have a piece of the artist’s soul on their walls, but we can rarely afford that. Luckily, there are so many ways you can get a masterpiece and hang it in your room.

There are many people who buy pictures that represent the famous painting and others use the painter’s portrait to show their respect. There are a lot of auctions where you can buy a painting or something that your famous painter wore, made or used, but you should be aware that these things are usually really expensive.

Maybe we cannot afford to buy an original painting, but you could definitely save up some money and visit your favorite museum and enjoy these painters’ work.