Whether you’re an art fanatic or not, there is no denying that some artists have had a lasting impact on the world of art. From iconic paintings to famous sculptures, these are the people whose creations we still marvel at today. While the concept of what makes a masterpiece is subjective, there is a general consensus around the top five most famous artists of all time. A cultural movement that took place between the 14th and 17th century CE, the Renaissance (literally ‘rebirth’) marked a return to ancient Greek and Roman means of learning. Renewed interest in classical culture led to a revival in the arts, literature and science among other disciplines. While it might seem like a period of rebirth, the Renaissance was not without its conflicts and setbacks.

However, the resurgence of artistic talent that dominated this period was undeniable and influenced all subsequent art for centuries to come. One of the most significant factors in the Renaissance was the introduction of the printing press which allowed books to be produced at a much faster rate and thus increased knowledge exchange. This impacted all aspects of life, including art and architecture. This era saw painters experiment with the human body, create more realistic scenes and make use of mathematical perspective. One of the earliest Renaissance painters was Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone, better known as Masaccio (1401-1428 CE). He was considered a pioneer in Renaissance painting due to his use of linear perspective and his realistic depictions of human figures. Another renowned Italian Renaissance painter is Michelangelo (1475-1564 CE).

His work is a testament to the humanist philosophy that was a primary characteristic of the Italian Renaissance. He was a man of many talents and also worked as a goldsmith and was friends with the famed Florentine sculptor Brunelleschi. During this time, he was commissioned to produce statues of various biblical characters. One of his most famous works is the David (1504 CE, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence). Unlike other colossal statues of ancient times, this marble figure is more like a real-life man rather than a mythical hero. Michelangelo’s use of a strong, muscular figure to represent both God and man was a unique expression of the Humanist philosophy.

His sculpture of David conveys the ferocity and strength of the hero whilst also showing his determination to defeat the giant Goliath. Renaissance sculptors also focused on creating more realistic statues. Donatello was a highly talented and influential Italian sculptor during this period. His equestrian and sarcophagi sculptures are some of the most impressive examples of this style. Michelangelo was a great Renaissance painter but his skills in sculpting are unrivaled. His Vitruvian Man, which is now in the Louvre, is a perfect example of this. The virtuosity with which he executed the reliefs, figuration and emotions of his subjects is awe-inspiring. His use of foreshortening, light and shadow, emotion and dynamic choice of scene was revolutionary at the time and still influences modern art.