Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The 10 greatest American painters

I don't know if I have ever posted this one before. It is moving from one show to another and I had a photo of it in the computer I am using tonight.This was painted an autumn or two ago above Johnson, Vermont with my friend Eric Tobin. This is about a half mile from his home. This was an unbelievably beautiful place to stand and paint on a warm afternoon. I wanted a picture to head this post with. I in no way meant to imply that I belonged anywhere near a list of the 10 greatest American painters. Please...........

I have narrowed my search for a new laptop down to several choices and soon I will no longer be blogging on 19th century computers with wooden cases and rock crystal screens and run on steam. When I do get that new lap top up and happening I can get into some posts that I am holding off on doing.

I think it would be amusing tonight to invite some reader participation. I am going to propose a list of Americas 10 finest painters I invite you to submit yours in the compliments. My nominees are, in no particular order

1) John Singer Sargent

2) George Inness

3) Winslow Homer

4) Willard Metcalf

5) Gilbert Stuart

6) Andrew Wyeth

7) Fredrick Church

8) Edward Hopper

9) Fredrick Remington

10) George Bellows

I chose these painters based of their work itself and not by their influence, which might for instance have put Thomas Cole on the list . If it were a list of the artists who I have studied the most it would include Hibbard, and if I had to choose a "modern" it would be Jacksson Pollack. To make the list each of these painters is responsible not for just one great iconic picture,or Grant Wood would make the cut, but a body of work that is both undeniably great and could only have been made by an American.

There were a whole lot of painters who were close,that might make a top 20 list, like Sanford Gifford, George Caleb Bingham, John Copley, Otis Spann, Jasper Cropsey Fitz H. Lane, Childe Hassam. Maybe one of thedse guys should be on your list. What about James WcNeil Whistler, Thomas Eakins or William Merrittt Chase. I could have used George Durrie as he was so quintessentially American, but too many of you would have asked who?
Who is on your list? Go to comments and leave your list.


Ramon said...

I like this idea for a post, I think it's sure to fire off a lively discussion :)

I largely agree with your choices, although I would personally replace Bellows, Stuart and Hopper with Edwin Lord Weeks, Dean Cornwell and Edmund Tarbell.

I'm obviously biased, but c'mon, that's a damn nice picture :)




PS. That landscape is beautiful

Ramon said...

...although to come to think of it, Lord Weeks wasn't the most American of fellows...

Bob Carter said...


That painting is so right and sweet I want to go home and break all my brushes. Where's it showing?

Five of your top ten make my list, and some of your second cut do, too. If it were just what I like, Hibbard, Gruppe, Thieme, and some more of the North Shore crowd would be there, but I think they're more regionally admired, in the same way as Payne and the California painters are. These are the ones I seek out or revisit in the MFA:
John Singer Sargent
Winslow Homer
Willard Metcalf
Edward Hopper
George Bellows
Robert Henri
Childe Hassam
William Merrit Chase
Theodore Robinson
Benson/Tarbell (a tie)

Bellows has a special place in my heart. Seeing his "Stag At Sharky's" as a kid in the Cleveland Museum left me gobsmacked and wanting to be a painter. It is so much more powerful in the paint than in any reproduction. (My nose prints are all over that baby.)


armandcabrera said...

Can I say Bierstadt since he lived here since he was two? If not then I would say Frederick Church. Sargent was born in Italy and lived abroad as much as he lived here
Anyway this would be my list

Albert Bierstadt
John Singer Sargent
Cecilia Beaux
Winslow Homer
Howard Pyle
Maynard Dixon
N.C. Wyeth
Dean Cornwell
Norman Rockwell
Edward Hopper

Richard J. Luschek II said...

I have always felt that Joseph Decamp was one of the finest, better than Sargent in my opinion.
I would for sure include Tarbell and probably Frank Duveneck. Maybe Frank Benson.
I am surprised to see Andrew Wyeth, as when I think of a Wyeth, N.C. always comes to the fore. Interested to hear why you chose him over his father.
I might include Whistler, and I doubt Eakins would make my top 50.
What about Emil Carlson? Too Swedish, I think he is one of the best still life painters that ever worked in this country- improving on what Chardin was doing.

Unknown said...

Ohh, I wish I knew enough other painters to get into this debate, but all of my favorites are on your list. One obscure guy I like is Theodore Lukits, but not his landscapes - only his portraits.

Richard J. Luschek II said...

huh, just when you thought you knew most of the worthwhile artists, someone points out another.
I had not heard of Theodore Lukits. Some interesting stuff.

Jesse said...

I don't know about a top 10, but I would put

JS Sargent
Andrew Wyeth
Winslow Homer

in as my top three.

Mary Bullock said...

I know no one will agree with me, but I would include Maxfield Parrish.

jeff said...

My list:
Of course this can change next...

1) George Inness

2) John Singer Sargent

3) Winslow Homer

4) Fredrick Church

5) Andrew Wyeth

6) Thomas Moran

7) George Bellows

8) Willard Metcalf

9) Whistler

10) Frank Mason

Stapleton Kearns said...


Bellows was the one about which I myself was least sure. i thought long and hard about adding a Boston school painter and I would most likely have chosen Benson, or Dennis Miller Bunker if I had. However I think I will stick with Bellows.

Stapleton Kearns said...

if you get Edwin Lord Weeks, I get Seago

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, it was in a show in Marshfield, Mass.
I am not sure where it goes next. I keep waving it around,

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bob again:
I considered Robinson too, I decided to give it to Metcalf.

Stapleton Kearns said...

That's a strong list. You are the second person to suggest Beaux, those votes are now adding up,
You have named no one who died before 1900 incidentally and I am the only one to include a painter who "hit" before 1850. I actually debated hard over whether I should use Copley instead of Stuart.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thats not actually allowed, you get ONE Boston school painter only.It never crossed my mind to include Eakins. I felt a little guilty as he is held in such high esteem. Other than Max Schmidt on the half shell, I never connected with him.
I worried over Whistler too, but I decided that he was valued as much for his personality as his art. His portrait of his mother is iconic though.The runner up on mu list was probably, William Merrit Chase, or George Caleb Bingham.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I had expected a Payne or a Wendt vote from the sunshine state

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think those would be about my top three also. That's really hard, Top 20 is easier.

Stapleton Kearns said...

But who are your other nine? There is no right or wrong to this unless you include Walter Keene.

Stapleton Kearns said...

There's Moran and a vote for Whistler. I thought about begining my list with Inness.

Stapleton Kearns said...

That was fun, Thank you all for your answers, lets do it again tomorrow!

JAMES A. COOK said...

As my painting improveS so does my knowledge of all of these great painters mentioned here in this blog. I could not name ten painters off of my head tonight but all of the painters referenced I have herd one time or another.
STAP you told me to study good art. This blog tonight gives me a great list of painters to focus on and study. Knowing the history of great painters is just as import as learning how to paint. How else would I learn if I didn't study there work. I understand now and some day soon I will join in a conversation with you all about great painters and not just american.
Thanks for a great blog STAPE.


willek said...

Hi, Stape, How big is that picture? It is just great.

In no particular order, I would guess
Joe Greenwood
Eakins's (Shooting and sporting pictures especially)
Frank Benson
Dennis Miller Bunker
Robert Henri
Norman Rockwell
William Merrit Chase
John Singer Sargent
Thomas Aquinas Daly (Still Alive)

I am ashamed to admit I do not know many of the good American guys well as I should.

Flointla= Italian for Flaunt it!
sillrge= smaller windows working together to make a picture window.


The Banks Gallery said...

You left out many who should be considered, also there is a noticable lack of women on any list, in no particular order:

Any of the Peales
Henry Ossawa Tanner
Charles Demuth
Ernest Blumenschein
Rockwell Kent
Richard Diebenkorn
Abbot Henderson Thayer
E Martin Hennings
Robert Motherwell
Edward Hicks
Chuck Close
Ammi Phillips
Vija Celmins
George O'Keefe
Wayne Thiebaud
Maurice Prendergast
Aurthor Wesley Dow

kasman said...

This is a very useful exercise because it helps us to personally define artistic merit and quality. Without such thinking, producing exceptional art is impossible. My list would definitely include, in no particular order:


2nd tier possibilites might include:


dozens, maybe a hundred, of others come close, but don't quite make the top ten.

Philly Mark said...

In my opinion - and I freely admit to being prejudiced - the greatest American painter of all is: Thomas Eakins.

Is it any wonder that museums were clamoring for "The Gross Clinic" which eventually went for 68 Million dollars - more than any American painting in history?!

Philly Mark said...

In my opinion - and I freely admit to being prejudiced - the greatest American painter of all is: Thomas Eakins.

Is it any wonder that museums were clamoring for "The Gross Clinic" which eventually went for 68 Million dollars - more than any American painting in history?!

kasman said...

Eakins was a great painter and "The Gross Clinic" is surely worth 68 million. However, there are other iconic American paintings would likely sell for at least that number if they were to ever come to market. George Bellow's "Stag at Sharkeys" and Sargent's "El Jaleo" are just two examples.

Linda Crank said...

Others to consider (without having read all of the above comments:
William Merritt Chase
Edmund Tarbell
Emil Carlsen
George Healy
NC Wyeth
William MacGregor Paxton
Richard Miller
Hugh Bolton Jones
Lowell Birge Harrison
Edgar Payne
Granville Redmond
Dennis Miller Bunker
John Carlson

It is rather heartening that there are so many that could be listed...a Happy Situation!

Craig said...

Assuming they don't need to be dead, here's my list (no order beyond #1)

1. Sargent
2. Church
3. Leyendecker
4. Jeremy Lipking
5. Scott Burdick
6. Biertadt (if he counts as American)
7. Tarbell
8. NC Wyeth
9. W.M. Chase
10. Gilbert Stuart

Blondheim Art and Stories said...

I will add Daniel Greene to these fine lists.

Durinda Cheek, Fine Artist said...

So many great painters in our past!! I have to add Georgia O'Keeffe and Mary Cassatt.

kasman said...

I’ve fumbling around with my top ten list again …


Runner ups:

Probably a few different artist tomorrow.😂

Just my 2 cents, David Kasman