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10 Artists Not Appreciated in Their Time

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Artists don’t always receive the attention and praise they want when they want it. Some of the most beloved and influential artists in history struggled to get their masterpieces noticed and sold during their lifetime, only to become famous after their death. These artists pushed the envelope with unorthodox styles, techniques and genres that were rejected and criticized at the time, but proved to be successful and widely admired later on. Here are 10 artists who were not appreciated in their time:

  1. Vincent Van Gogh: Today, we consider Vincent Van Gogh to be one of the greatest and most influential painters of all time, but that wasn’t the case when he was alive. Van Gogh’s work received little to no recognition during his lifetime. His paintings were often described as being too dark and lacking the bright liveliness seen in Impressionist paintings of the time. Van Gogh produced more than 900 paintings during his lifetime, but only sold one painting, Red Vineyard at Arles. After Van Gogh committed suicide, his brother’s wife collected his artwork and letters to make sure his work was recognized.
  2. Paul Gauguin: Paul Gauguin was an influential 19th century French Post-Impressionist artist who was not well appreciated until after his death. Gauguin was later recognized for his experimental use of colors and synthetist style that was distinguishably different from Impressionism. His work was influential to the French avant-garde and many modern artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Arthur Frank Mathews. Gauguin’s art became popular after his death and many of his painting were in the possession of Russian collector, Sergei Shchukin. Although his paintings are rarely for sale, they could sell for as much as $39.2 million a piece.
  3. Domenikos Theotokopoulos "El Greco": The Greek painter, sculptor and architect was a major influence in the Post-Byzantine art movement, but was highly under appreciated during his lifetime. El Greco was a truly unique artist and one that never belonged to any conventional school. El Greco’s contemporaries found his dramatic and imaginative work to be puzzling. Critics called him a "mad painter" and considered his expressionistic style to be a sign of his insanity. It wasn’t until the 20th century that El Greco received recognition for his fantastic work and artistic influence.
  4. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a French painter who created groundbreaking artwork during the Post-Impressionism movement, but didn’t receive recognition during his lifetime. His paintings were exciting and provocative, capturing the gaudy Parisian nightlife and people at work. Toulouse-Lautrec was very skilled in depicting people and his paintings often looked more like drawings emphasized by long, thin brushstrokes. One of the reasons Toulouse-Lautrec remained unnoticed was because he lived in brothels for quite some time, painting prostitutes. It wasn’t until after his death in 1901 that his mother, the Comtesse Adele Toulouse-Lautrec, and his art dealer began to promote his art and paid a French museum to house his work.
  5. Georges-Pierre Seurat: Georges-Pierre Seurat was a French Post-Impressionist painter who is best known for his painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Seurat was a trend-setting artist, who took a scientific approach to painting by using colors to conjure certain emotions and feelings of harmony. He created artwork based on certain techniques using lines, various dark, warm and cold colors at different intensity levels. Seurat even developed Pointillism, a painting technique that uses small dots to form a larger image, which was widely ridiculed by critics. It wasn’t until after Seurat’s death that his creative style and fascinating painting techniques received worthy recognition.
  6. Claude Monet: Claude Monet may have been the leader of the Impressionism movement and is one of the greatest painters of all time, but his unique style and philosophy wasn’t always well understood or well liked. Monet broke the mold when he began painting nature and landscapes, using short brushstrokes and light colors. His work and other Impressionists’ paintings were rejected by society and art exhibitions because it went against the traditional style and method of painting. Impressionism continued to live on past Monet’s death and set the foundation for Post-Impressionism.
  7. Johannes Vermeer: Johannes Vermeer is a Dutch painter who is best known for his domestic interior scenes of middle class life and portraits. Although Vermeer received some recognition during his lifetime, he was never very successful or wealthy, and left his family in debt after his death. Vermeer produced few paintings throughout his career and spent a great deal of time perfecting his work and experimenting with different colors and pigments. After his death, Vermeer was recognized for his 17th century genre pieces and masterful use of light. Today, Vermeer is celebrated as one the best painters of the Dutch Golden Age.
  8. Julia Margaret Cameron: Julia Margaret Cameron was a British photographer who was known for her beautiful Arthurian-themed and celebrity photographs. Cameron had an important influence on modern photography, specifically for her closely cropped portraits, but her work wasn’t always appreciated. During her time, Cameron’s style was often rejected and criticized. It wasn’t until 1948, well after her death, that her photography got noticed and her portraits were praised.
  9. Paul Thek: Paul Thek was a painter, sculptor and installation artist who became best known for his beeswax sculptures and installations that were made to look like meat. Although popular in Europe, Thek struggled to draw visitors to his exhibitions in the U.S. After Thek died of AIDS in 1988, he has slowly but surely gained appreciation in America for his unique sculptures and artistic charm.
  10. Henry Darger: Henry Darger was an American writer and artist who is best known for his drawings, watercolor paintings and fantasy literature. Darger’s most famous piece of work is his fantasy manuscript, titled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. However, his whimsical folk art did not garner much attention during his lifetime. The reclusive artist was self-taught and his contemporary style wasn’t always appreciated or recognized. After his death, Darger’s work was praised for its composition and brilliant use of color. He is now considered to be the most famous outsider artists of all time.


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