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American Painters

Updated on February 27, 2019
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James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

JOHN SINGLETON COPLEY SELF PORTRAIT (1784)
JOHN SINGLETON COPLEY SELF PORTRAIT (1784)

John Singleton Copley

John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) of Boston moved to London in 1774 because all of his family’s ties were with those loyal to the British Crown. John Copley never returned to America, but he is still considered the most gifted and influential of all painters from the Colonial Period. The Neoclassical painting below is based on a true story that occurred in the harbor at Havana.

"WATSON AND THE SHARK" BY JOHN SINGLETON COPLEY (1778) MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON
"WATSON AND THE SHARK" BY JOHN SINGLETON COPLEY (1778) MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON

Charles Bird King

Charles Bird King (1785-1862) of Rhode Island is best known for the over 100 portraits he painted of American Indians, on a commission from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.  This is ironic, since the father of Charles King was scalped and killed by a group of Native Americans when he was four years old. 

"YOUNG OMAHAW, WAR EAGLE, LITTLE MISSOURI, AND PAWNEES" BY CHARLES BIRD KING (1821) SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE
"YOUNG OMAHAW, WAR EAGLE, LITTLE MISSOURI, AND PAWNEES" BY CHARLES BIRD KING (1821) SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE

Archibald Willard

Archibald Willard (1836-1918) of Ohio fought in the Civil War.

The painting below was inspired by a veteran’s parade he attended.

Archibald Willard used his own father as the model for the middle figure.

This painting is currently displayed in the State Department.

"THE SPIRIT OF '76" OR "YANKEE DOODLE" BY ARCHIBALD WILLARD (1875)
"THE SPIRIT OF '76" OR "YANKEE DOODLE" BY ARCHIBALD WILLARD (1875)

William Harnett

William Harnett (1848-1892) of Philadelphia developed an oft-imitated style known as trompe l’oeil (fool the eye).

The still life paintings of ordinary objects by William Harnett are so realistic that they have been mistaken for the actual articles.

"MUSIC AND GOOD LUCK" OR "STILL LIFE WITH VIOLIN AND MUSIC" BY WILLIAM MICHAEL HARNETT (1888)
"MUSIC AND GOOD LUCK" OR "STILL LIFE WITH VIOLIN AND MUSIC" BY WILLIAM MICHAEL HARNETT (1888)

Daniel Ridgway Knight

Daniel Ridgway Knight (1839-1924) of Philadelphia specialized in painting peasant women outdoors.  He moved to France in 1872, and there he lived out his days.  It is easy to notice the finely detailed figures, acute attention to landscape portrayal, and subdued use of light and color, of Daniel Ridgway Knight. 

"GIRL WITH A BASKET IN A GARDEN" BY DANIEL RIDGWAY KNIGHT (1899)
"GIRL WITH A BASKET IN A GARDEN" BY DANIEL RIDGWAY KNIGHT (1899)
CHARLES MARION RUSSELL IN 1900
CHARLES MARION RUSSELL IN 1900

Charles Marion Russell

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) grew up in Missouri, and lived most of his adult life in the state of Montana.  He is best known for the over 2,000 paintings he created of cowboys, Indians, and western landscapes.  “The Cowboy Artist” Charles Marion Russell was also a sculptor and author.  

"BRINGING HOME THE SPOILS" BY CHARLES MARION RUSSELL (1909)
"BRINGING HOME THE SPOILS" BY CHARLES MARION RUSSELL (1909)
THOMAS HART BENTON IN 1935
THOMAS HART BENTON IN 1935

Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) was born into a prominent Missouri family.

He was a leader of the Regionalist art movement, and also a famous art teacher.

Thomas Hart Benton painted scenes from everyday America life with a fluid, sculpted style.

"LORD, HEAL THE CHILD" BY THOMAS HART BENTON (1934)
"LORD, HEAL THE CHILD" BY THOMAS HART BENTON (1934)

Reginald Marsh

Reginald Marsh (1898-1954) grew up in New Jersey, and lived his adult life in New York City.  His work is called Social Realism.  Reginald Marsh was famous for painting scenes that depicted the lives of the lower class members of society.  He also worked extensively as an illustrator for newspapers and magazines.

"TWENTY CENT MOVIE" BY REGINALD MARSH (1936)
"TWENTY CENT MOVIE" BY REGINALD MARSH (1936)
NORMAN ROCKWELL
NORMAN ROCKWELL

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) of New York City may be the most beloved artist in American history.  Art critics sneered at his work, considering his paintings to be nothing more than sentimentalized, unrealistic portrayals of American life.  Those poor reviews were unfair because at that time art critics lived on the coasts, and were unaware of the America portrayed in Rockwell’s 4,000 paintings; Rockwell’s America was quite real.  

"HOMECOMING MARINE" BY NORMAN ROCKWELL (1945)
"HOMECOMING MARINE" BY NORMAN ROCKWELL (1945)
"SUFFLETON'S BARBER SHOP" BY NORMAN ROCKWELL (1950)
"SUFFLETON'S BARBER SHOP" BY NORMAN ROCKWELL (1950)

Richard Estes

Richard Estes (b. 1932) is from Illinois. He is not only one of the founders, but also the acknowledged grand master of the photorealist movement.  Richard Estes used photographs to create paintings of clean, inanimate cityscapes that appear to be photographs.   Since 1962, he has lived in Spain.

RICHARD ESTES IN 2009
RICHARD ESTES IN 2009
"THE FOOD SHOP" BY RICHARD ESTES (1967)
"THE FOOD SHOP" BY RICHARD ESTES (1967)

Ernie Barnes

Ernie Barnes (1938-2009) was a professional football player turned neo-mannerist painter from North Carolina.  The painting in this gallery was used as an album cover by Marvin Gaye, and in the closing credits of the television program Good Times, on which Ernie Barnes appeared several times. 

ERNIE BARNES
ERNIE BARNES
"SUGAR SHACK" BY ERNIE BARNES (1976)
"SUGAR SHACK" BY ERNIE BARNES (1976)

Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade (b. 1958) of California is the “Painter of Light.”  He specializes in bucolic, idyllic scenes, painted with glowing highlights and saturated colors.  Art critics loathe him as a purveyor of kitsch, but he is the best selling painter of all time. Regular people simply love the spiritual expressions of this devout Christian. It is said that 1 out of 20 homes in America have at least one piece of art created by Thomas Kinkade.

THOMAS KINKADE IN 2004
THOMAS KINKADE IN 2004
"MASTERWORKS OF LIGHT" BY THOMAS KINKADE (2000)
"MASTERWORKS OF LIGHT" BY THOMAS KINKADE (2000)
"MOUNTAIN PARADISE" BY THOMAS KINKADE (2000)
"MOUNTAIN PARADISE" BY THOMAS KINKADE (2000)
"VILLAGE LIGHTHOUSE" BY THOMAS KINKADE (2008)
"VILLAGE LIGHTHOUSE" BY THOMAS KINKADE (2008)
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