“The Most Iconic Artists of All Time” series offers an introductory guide to the outsize figures who have pushed or altered the aesthetic standards and conceptual boundaries of art. During the Italian Renaissance
—one of the most important and prolific periods in history—a “rebirth” of Classical ideals steered artists away from the dogma of medieval scholasticism. A rise of the individual turned innovative artists like Leonardo da Vinci
into public heroes. The artistic practices and humanist ideals of Renaissance Italy soon migrated north, flourishing in Germany, the Netherlands, and France. In the throes of the Protestant Reformation, Northern European artists from Albrecht Dürer
to Hans Holbein
innovated oil painting and printmaking techniques with works of remarkable clarity. The Renaissance reached its peak on both sides of the Alps with the Baroque
period and the Dutch Golden Age, when economic prosperity and a penchant for heightened emotionality in art encouraged ambitious artists like Bernini
to further probe the inner lives of their subjects. Jump to the second half of the 20th century, when artists contended with a rapidly modernizing and globalized world, and pivoted away from technical skills to embrace conceptual ideas. Here, we track the modern artists who reflected upon their times and pushed the envelope as the art world and market have grown into the monied bonanza we know today. Who will be the superstars of our current century? Only history will tell.