10 Best Paintings by the French Artists in the History

French Artists are found to be working in plastic media, visual media, and performance arts. Most of the artwork is inspired by the French Revolution and the real incidents that took place.

Numerous French Artists have worked based on various categories. We can find artists based on the city or town they live in or also based on the Century they are from. Their works have been inspired by Revolution, their imaginations, real incidents, and many more.

Some of the significant artwork done by them include The Absinthe Drinker, Fountain, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande-Jatte, The Card Players, and The Death of Marat.

Here is the list of 10 famous paintings by the French Artists.

10. The Absinthe Drinker by Edgar Degas

The Absinthe Drinker by Edgar Degas
Artist:Edgar Degas
In the Year:1876

The Absinthe Drinker, an oil painting on canvas, was painted by an urban painter, Edgar Degas, in 1876. He was a painter who believed in painting the enclosed spaces, pleasure spots, and leisure activities.

In a popular meeting spot, a woman and a man are seen to be sitting side-by-side and are in a calm state. They seem sad and empty with some air of desolation.

A harmful and violent liquor – The Absinthe is also shown in the paintings. The alcohol was later banned due to its adverse effects.

This painting was painted in a studio by Degas by using models to pose for the detailed work. With the release of the art piece, he had to clarify to all that the people involved were not alcoholics.

9. Fountain by Marcel Duchamp

Fountain by Marcel Duchamp
Artist:Marcel Duchamp
In the Year:1917

A famous art piece, Fountain, was painted by Marcel Duchamp using porcelain, in 1917. It is an icon of the 20th Century art, and Duchamp was famous for his readymades.

A standard urinal image was portrayed in the original painting, which is lost now. The idea of painting the Fountain came from talking with collector Walter Arensberg and an artist Joseph Stella.

The notorious readymade was presented in an exhibition for the 1917 Society of Independent Artists under R.Mutt. Though this piece is ordinary with mundane appearance, it was one of the most influential artworks of the 20th Century.

It was displayed by changing its original angle and also was isolated from its usual surroundings. After purchasing a urinal form a plumbing supplier, Duchamp turned it altered the perception of the viewers.

8. A Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grande-Jatte

A Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grande-Jatte
Artist:Georges Seurat
In the Year:1884 - 1886

The painting ‘ A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande -Jatte’ was painted by Georges Seurat in Pointillism style ( dot art or stippling art), in the 1880s.

This painting has a distinct dots of colours which shows the patterns forming an image. It took almost two whole years (1884-1886) to complete this painting.

Seurat’s painting is the outline of the Parisians living style in the 1880s including river shimmerings, taking shade under a tree, fishing in the river and relying on the umbrellas.

It was exhibited in the 8th and final exhibition of the Impressionists, got mixed reviews, and became public art of Surat’s art career. This painting shows the lifestyles of people during the 1880s, where they enjoyed the time spent on an Island.

7. The Card Players

The Card Players
Artist: Paul Cezanne
In the Year:1890 - 1895

Paul Cezanne painted the Card Players painting to take the history of art in a new direction. It was painted in the 1890s, which took almost 5 years to complete, from 1890 to 1895.

The painting shows the peasants indulged in playing cards while smoking pipes. It is the best art piece made by Cezanne during the final period of his art career.

This painting portraits men are gambling without any money being displayed on the table. The card players shown in the picture do not share a typical home; they are spread all over the world.

Cezanne put a lot of effort to complete this portray, as he made dozens of sketches and painted several portraits as practice before painting the real one.

Out of many versions, one version of this masterpiece was sold at a very high price ( $250 ) in 2011.

6. The Death of Marat by Louis David

The Death of Marat by Louis David
Artist: Louis David
In the Year:1793

Jacques – Louis David painted the Death of Marat in 1793. A portrait of the most famous murders of the French Revolution was a well-known art piece.

Being the most radical revolutionary leaders and the chief editor of the newspaper, L’Ami du Peuple, David got a membership at a Convention where Marat was the deputy Jacobin.  

The incident, stabbing of Marat took place in his bathtub. Marat spent most of his time on his bathtub, as he was suffering from some skin condition. He was stabbed by Charlotte(July 13, 1793).

Later, David was to paint the whole event with full details and plan for Marat’s funeral, which he did with complete sincerity. 

Displaying an image of Marat on a bathtub, covered with a blanket, a knife with Cordy’s petition signifies the treasury of Cordy, and drooping eyelids – tilted head of Marat makes this image similar to the image of Jesus Christ on the cross. 

5. Dance at Le moulin de la Galette

Dance at Le moulin de la Galette
Artist:Henri Matisse
In the Year:1910

The famous artwork, Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, was an art piece of a French Artist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It was painted in the year 1876 and became one of the most magnificent paintings of the 19th Century.

It is a portrait of a public place, the Moulin de la Galette – Montmartre, where open-air dances were held every Sunday, which started from the early afternoon and went on until midnight.

Images of the models for the figures who used to visit the dance every Sundays can be seen in his painting. He, along with two of his friends, can be identified seated at the river.

The painting was able to enter the State collection due to Renoir’s request, which was primarily brought for the exhibition. Being the artwork, mostly painted on the spot, indulges the events that were happening the 19th Century.

4. La Danse – The Dance

Artist:Henri Matisse
In the Year:1910

Henri Matisse, an influential figure in modern art, painted la Danse in 1910. 

This painting was created at the request of Sergei Shchukin, an art collector and a businessman of Russia which the composition of many dancing figures painted in bright red and a simple green landscape with a deep blue sky.

It is considered as the vital point in the development of modern painting and Matisse’s career, as the painted intentionally childishly and efficiently to give primitive energy. 

La Danse was exhibited for the first time at the Salon d’Automne, from October 1 to November 8, 1910, where it was hung along with Music at Shchukin’s Moscow Mansion. It is sometimes associated with the ‘dance of the young girls’, a well-known musical work of Igor Stravinsky.

3. Impression, Sunrise

Impression, Sunrise
Artist:Claude Monet
In the Year:1872

Impression, Sunrise was painted by Claude Monet in 1872. He was the leader of Impressionism style of art which emerged during the 19th Century.

This painting was portrayed from the scene of Le Havre’s port. It gives a blurry background and yellowish-orange hues contrasting perfectly with the vessels. His intention was not to create a perfect landscape but to form an impression while looking at it. 

The Impression is a candid and striking work showing small boats moving along with the movement of water. The primary factor making the art masterpiece is the mixture of colours used by Monet, which managed to capture every essence of the scene.

Though the work of Monet was not taken healthily by the critics and was reviewed by Louis Leroy in a satirical way, it managed to spread its musical and literary aspect with its popularity.

2. Water Lilies series by Claude Monet

Water Lilies series by Claude Monet
Artist:Claude Monet
In the Year:1896 - 1926

The painter of a famous art series, Water Lilies series, is Claude Monet. It was painted from 1896 and went on till 1926, a total of about 250 water lily paintings were painting within this period.

The Impressionism styled the first series of Water Lilies had 25 canvases, which were exhibited in 1900 at Galerie Durand-Ruel. The second series was painted nine years after the first one, having a total of 48 paintings.

Focusing mainly on the surface of the water, the artist is trying to represent the land and sky from their reflection, as the paintings primarily present the representation. With the inclusion of weeping willows, exotic flowers, planted water lilies, river, and bamboo trees, the masterpiece creates a real-life definition.

With having a cataract, Monet painted a Water Lilies-Japanese Bridge in 1923, at the age of 82. It has an evocative sum of light and colour combination which resulted in being the most emotive part of his career. 

His art piece is the Water Lilies Series in the Orangerie, Paris.

1. Olympia by Edouard Manet

Olympia by Edouard Manet
Artist:Edouard Manet
In the Year:1863

Edouard Manet painted Olympia in 1863. It was primarily exhibited at the Paris Salon.

This painting displays a nude woman lying on a bed and a servant bringing flowers for her. It is the most famous nude art of the 19th Century.

It created a great shock and astonishment when it was first exhibited as the woman was identified as a prostitute. There arose a massive controversy due to its appearance.

Olympia includes bracelet, orchid in hair, a pearl earring, and her lying on an oriental shawl symbolises wealth and sensuality. The painting also has a black cat symbolising prostitution.

Though the Urbino influenced the painting of Olympia, it could not create a godly feeling but instead portrayed a high-class prostitute. She is rejecting the flowers given to by her servant, which might be a gift sent by a client.

 Conclusion:

Such artworks made on canvas with oil, or charcoal, brought all the incidents to life and were relatable with real-life events and lifestyles. The French Artists made various paintings throughout the artistic history of their nation.

These paintings made an impact on every artist and were the source of inspiration for them. 

Other significant paintings besides these include The Storming of the Battle, Liberty leading the people, Women’s March on Versailles, and The Third Estate Awakens.

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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "10 Best Paintings by the French Artists in the History," in HistoryTen, March 5, 2020, https://historyten.com/arts/best-paintings-by-french-artists-history/.
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