The Best Oil Painters in History

The oil painting medium has been a staple in the art world for centuries.
Though it is a common technique, a select few artists have become known for their masterful oil paintings. Here are some of the most renowned oil painting artists in history.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was a famous artist who used oil to create stunning works of art. Perhaps his most famous oil painting is the Mona Lisa. This one painting has been the subject of wide debate in academic and art history circles for centuries, and the public, in general, has been intrigued by this work done in oils. The Last Supper is another famous oil painting by da Vinci, as are The Adoration of the Magi, Virgin of the Rocks, and The Virgin and Child with St. Anne.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh’s life is as storied as his art, and he was one of the masters of oil painting. He created many well known still life paintings, landscapes, and portraits as well as one of the most recognized pieces of art in the world: The Starry Night. It was completed in 1889, after Vincent van Gogh’s stay in an asylum following the infamous event in which he self-mutilated his own ear. The Starry Night is considered to be one of van Gogh’s finest pieces and is a stand out of the post-Impressionist era.


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, more commonly referred to simply as Rembrandt, was a Dutch painter, printmaker, etching artist, and one of history’s most accomplished oil painters. Few dispute that he’s the most prominent painter in Dutch history and one of the most important in European art. Rembrandt’s distinctive style led to the rise of innovative, new painting genres. Some of his most well-known oil paintings include The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, The Night Watch, and Bathsheba at Her Bath. Librarian-archivists have their hands full to take care of all these invaluable works and preserve them properly.


Raphael, born Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, was among the most respected Italian painters of the so-called “High Renaissance” era. This period of art history also saw Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo — along with them, Raphael completes what’s referred to as the trinity of great masters. In addition to being a painter, he was an architect and printmaker. Some of Raphael’s most famous works in oil include Sistine Madonna, Saint George and the Dragon, and La Velata. For more information on art college courses, check out this post.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet helped found the French Impressionist movement, and he created many famous oil paintings during his time. The term “Impressionism” was itself developed from the title of one of Monet’s paintings, Impression, Soleil Levant. Label-conscious art lovers are so aware of any reproductions that, unfortunately, are still around. Monet often painted the countryside of France and nature. The Water Lily Pond, Woman with a Parasol, and Garden at Sainte-Adresse are a few of Claude Monet’s most well-known oil paintings.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Auguste Renoir was an artist who helped develop the Impressionist style of painting, and he often worked in oil. Renoir’s style is characterized by the use of bold lines, natural landscapes, and bright colors. He preferred to paint subjects that were pleasant, optimistic, and light-hearted, rather than somber. Famous oil paintings by Renoir include A Girl with a Watering Can, Dance in the Country, The Ball at the Moulin de la Galette, and La Loge.

These top oil painters produced a large collection of pieces which are now some of the most recognized in the world. Though they are often reproduced and replicated (a good reason to think twice before buying anything), the originals are truly priceless works of art and set the standard for oil painting.

Art Schools in Chicago, IL

American Academy of Art
Computer Art/Design, Drawing, Film/Video, Painting

332 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60604 (USA)
telephone (312) 461-0600

Harrington College of Design
Architectural Design, Communication Design, Computer Art/Design, Design Theory, Interior Design, Photography

200 West Madison Street, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60606 (USA)
telephone (877) 939-4975

The Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago
Advertising, Fashion Design, Game Design, Graphic Design, Interactive Media, Interior Design, Visual Communication

350 North Orleans Street, Chicago, IL 60654 (USA)
telephone (312) 280-3500

International Academy of Design & Technology – Chicago
Advertising, Fashion Design, Film/Video, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Visual Communication

One North State Street, Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60602 (USA)
telephone (312) 980-9200

School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Architecture, Art Administration, Art History, Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Studio Art

37 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603 (USA)
telephone (312) 899-5219

UIC: School of Art and Design
Art Education, Electronic Media, Film, Photography, Graphic Design, Studio Arts

929 West Harrison Street, Chicago IL 60607 (USA)
telephone (312) 996-3337

For additional art schools in Illinois, see the National Association of Schools of Art and Design’s online directory,, and for an article on Art School Scholarships, click here.