20th Century Artists With Fascinating Stories

In this diary entry, we will discuss the stories of a selection of 20th century artists, including how they began their artistic careers and where they sought their creative inspiration. 

20th century artists

Famous Artists of the 20th Century

Louise Bourgeois 

Louise Bourgeois (B. 1911) came into her own in the latter part of her career. It wasn’t until 63 years after her birth that Bourgeois produced the evocative pieces that changed the industry and finally got her the recognition for the work she deserved. Her most famous pieces are ‘Destruction of the Father’, which came out in 1974, and her work from 1999, known as ‘Maman’. 

Before she created these pieces, Louise studied mathematics and geometry in 1930. Therefore, like other artists, Bourgeois background wasn’t initially in the creative arts of design. However, in 1932, Louise followed her mother’s advice and switched to focusing on her artistic abilities. A decision which was crucial for her future success as a recognised feminist artist. 

Bourgeois then went on to use her personal story in her art, where she pulled on her personal experiences with childhood trauma and honed into themes of subconscious thought, sexuality and deep and inhibited emotions to create her stunning work. 

Another fabulous artist who uses their skills to depict feminism and the abuse of the female body is Nana del Riego. Del Riego is a photographer who uses her unique upbringing in Havana, Cuba and her talent in digital art to show the female body metaphorically. In our opinion, she is an up-and-coming photographer of the 21st century to watch. As Nana del Riego is represented by our team at Imitate Modern, you can follow her story and get notifications for her latest exhibitions by following the Imitate Modern social media

Nobuyoshi Araki 

Erotic photographer Nobuyoshi Araki (B.1940) is a well-recognised name in the history of the art of the 20th century. This Japanese photographer has made headlines for his work using themes of eroticism, bondage, nudism and urban references. He is most well known for his work using his wife, Yōko Aoki, as the featured model. 

Araki developed his skills during the late 1950s and early 1960s by studying photography at a top university in Japan. Many people commended his unique approach to photography. However, due to the nature of the scenes in the photographs, his work is certainly not loved by everyone.

Although Araki’s work divides opinions, he has been an influential figure in the progression of photography. His work is also highly contrasted with the typical image of the polite and modest culture of Japan. 

You can read more about Nobuyoshi Araki’s background in our previous diary entry dedicated to this artist. 

Annie Leibovitz

Photographer Annie Leibovitz (B. 1949) is well-established for her work in museums and magazines across the world. 

Her work has been featured in Rolling Stone Magazine countless times as she was a key photographer involved in creating the brand image. Plus, she worked with Vogue and Vanity Fair in the 1980s and 1990s. Annie Leibovitz is also well-known for her celebrity photography work and has collaborated with Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Gates, Ian McKellen and many other A-list stars. 

Annie Leibovitz initially didn’t set her career goal to be as famous as she has now become. At the beginning of her art career, Annie wanted to be an art teacher. To pursue this dream, Annie went to study art at the San Francisco Art Institute.

However, Annie’s life hasn’t all been an upward projection to fame and recognition. In fact, Annie Leibovitz has struggled with financial difficulties, lawsuits and other problems which may have gotten in her way of creating her successful artistic repertoire. Eventually, these issues saw Annie sell her house and move out of New York City. However, despite of her struggles, Leibovitz is still a world-famous photographer and artist from the 20th century. 

Learn more about Annie Leibovitz’s personal life and career and awards in our previous diary entry


Who are some old famous artists?

Of course, if you are looking for famous artists of all time, you may have to dig beyond the stories of painters of the 20th century. However, many iconic artists’ careers also ran into the 1900s, including the fantastic Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet. 

Who was the most influential artist? 

Among our top influential 20th century artists is, of course, Frida Kahlo. As we have covered Frieda’s incredible story and untimely death at just 47 years old in a previous post, we have chosen to focus on other artists in this article. However, she undoubtedly deserves a notable mention. 

Where can you buy work by influential artists of the 20th century?

If you are interested in owning some work by famous 20th century painters, sculptors, photographers etc., you can view the selection of contemporary artwork for sale at the Imitate Modern gallery in London. 

You can also keep up to date with the news from our contemporary artists, including their new exhibitions and release dates for their new collections on our website or social media

Learn More 

We hope you enjoyed this article highlighting three impressive artists who began the bulk of their careers in the 20th century. 

If you enjoyed this post on famous 20th century artists and their backstories, we think you’ll find our previous post on top Latin American artists with interesting stories right up your street. You can discover more about the iconic Frida Kahlo, Wilfredo Lam (a surrealist and cubist painter who met with Pablo Picasso), and artist Tony Capellán who dedicated much of his work to exploring topics about the natural world and depicts messages of environmental destruction, which is a hot topic in the 21st century. 

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