Learning About Famous Artists – Easy Ways to Study Artists

Before your children do a picture study or visit an art museum, learning about the master artists who created the works is ideal. Learning about famous artists is the best way to understand the complete story behind their works of art.

Paintbrushes in a jar with text overlay learning about famous artists

What is art?

Art is an expression of someone’s human creative skill and imagination. Art is usually in visual form for others to see and interpret as they may. Art is visual in nature to be appreciated for its beauty, creativity, and emotional impact.

Why learn about famous artists?

Creation needs a creator. Although art is known for the reaction of those viewing it, there is a story behind those who created the piece of art. Art is an extension of the one who made it.

Young people may see a work of art and not think much about it, or they can see the work as a cornucopia of art history that made it what it is today.

A major part of art history is what is known about the artist. An art historian can tell you where the art was made and how it was created, but an essential part of the knowledge of the elements of art is who made it. This is even true if the artist is anonymous. The artist that created a piece of art can be almost as important as the art itself.

The truth is that art history is full of fascinating characters and interesting facts. Known artists we still study and love today are creative, eccentric, and many times have gone against the grain of society.

Learning about famous artists and their backgrounds makes art lessons intriguing and gives art students a deeper understanding of the art piece.

Interesting Facts about Famous Artists

Many times an artist’s background has been a factor that has kept them at the top of the heap in art history. Just to give you an idea, here are some things that would pique anyone’s interest of famous artists.

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso is known for founding the art movement called cubism in 1943. His painting named “Guernica” is his most famous work and most famous Google-searched painting in the world.

However, did you know that Picasso was also once known as an art thief? Although this rumor wasn’t true, Picasso was accused of stealing the Mona Lisa (c. 1503), Leonardo da Vinci from the Louvre.

Guernica by Picass0
Guernica, Pablo Picasso 1937 |  Oil on canvas |  Cubism, Surrealism | Current Location Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain

Vincent van Gogh

Although Vincent van Gogh is one of art history’s greatest painters of all time, sadly he wasn’t able to know that himself. He never got to experience his success and only sold one painting on record in his lifetime.

Vincent sold The Red Vineyard at Arles before committing suicide in 1890. Many challenge the fact that he only sold one painting and say he had sold or bartered many before his passing, but the magnitude of his success is something he missed out on. His legacy lives on by the visual art classics the world still appreciates today like The Starry Night of 1889, The Potato Eaters of 1885, and even his self-portrait.

The Red Vineyard / Red Vineyard at Arles (Montmajour) by Vincent van Gogh
The Red Vineyard / Red Vineyard at Arles (Montmajour), Vincent van Gogh 1888 | The only painting Vincent van Gogh is certainly known to have sold while living

Pierre-August Renoir

Renoir was one of the known artists that founded Impressionist art, a radical art movement depicting everyday life in the world all around. His famous pieces of art include the Luncheon of the Boating Party of 1881 and Bal du moulin de la galette of 1876.

One interesting fact that makes a difference in how we view his work is his state of health. Renoir painted for 20 years despite being in excruciating pain and suffering from a debilitating illness.

He was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1892. Although he was able to make brush strokes, he needed assistance from the beginning to the end of his paintings. Renoir needed an assistant to place the paintbrush in his hand and they had to arrange his color palette while he painted.

Renoir was often seen in photos with bandages on his hands which people thought were for strapping brushes. However, the bandages were to prevent his fingers from curling up and digging in his palms while painting.

An artist’s life speaks volumes about the art they create.

Luncheon of the Boating Party Français : Le déjeuner des canotiers - Pierre-August Renoir
Luncheon of the Boating Party, Pierre-August Renoir 1881

How to study famous artists

Artist studies can be simple or elaborate. They can range from an easy unit study to a more in-depth exploration of an artist’s life. You can adjust the study to meet the needs of your student’s grade level. Here a few ways to learn about famous artists in your homeschool.

Choose a Famous Artist

There are several different ways to set the stage for a famous artist study. You can choose an artist based on the availability of materials that you have. Children can choose an artistic style they enjoy looking at and study an artist from that historical period. Or you can choose an artist from the historical period or country you are already studying in homeschool. You could also just select an artist to study who has a piece of art that you or your student finds intriguing.

Read Books About the Famous Artist

There are books about famous artists in varying reading levels. Whether you go to a library or purchase a book on the artist you will be studying, students can read all about the artists they choose to study.

Watch Videos About the Artist

There are some short animated videos or school-aged videos your students can view to learn more about the famous artist. Be sure to preview any video, before letting your child watch the video.

Hands-on Art Activity

Once your student has learned some information about the artist, they can create an art project around the artist’s private collection.

Some Hands-On Art Ideas

  • Students can make playdough faces when studying Picasso.
  • Grab some different color blue paints, foil, and a Q-tip to paint circular swirls like Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night.
  • Task your students to paint colorful flowers or poppies of oil pastels with a Georgia O’keefe influence.
  • Lay an old white sheet out in the yard and let your students create artwork using Jackson Pollock’s painting by drip technique.
  • Place sheet paper on the underside of your table. Your students can lay on the floor on their back and paint from under the table as a Michaelangelo Sistine Chapel inspired table art activity.

Artist Research project

Completing a research project gives students a sense of accomplishment, and it allows parents to evaluate students’ learning and understanding of a topic.

As your students read their books and watch videos about famous artists, they can begin their research project by gathering fun and interesting facts. Using a notetaking template, your student can jot down all the important facts they have learned. Then outline the project in sections that include biographical information, artistic style and works, interesting and fun facts, and a favorite quote.

Finally, your student can choose a favorite piece of art from the artist and give their review of the piece. Did they like it? Why did they like it or not like? How does it make them feel or what does it make them think about? There are also many different resources (i.e. artist study worksheet or research project templates online) you can use for a more specific artist study project.

The best way to encourage fine art appreciation in your home begins with a simple famous artist study. When you expose your students to artists and their works, they can learn to analyze and critique art.

Open & Go Artist Unit Study

Famous People Notebook: Artists is an excellent tool to introduce artist studies in an easy and effective way. Each lesson in this resource provides an artist’s background and open-ended questions sculpted to encourage critical thinking.

Famous People: Artists Unit Study with printable pages

The 50-page Famous People Notebook: Artists resource includes text, comprehension questions, written narration, and answer key. Students will explore the life and works of famous artists including Picasso, Monet, Rockwell, Van Gogh, and more!

In Conclusion

Artwork that artists create all start off with a mere idea. Studying famous artists encourage students to learn about influences, cultures, and express themselves creatively just like the artists they learned about.