5 artists you didn’t know about but definitely should

5 artists you didn’t know about but definitely should


Art can be difficult sometimes. It’s hard to stand and look at a piece of work that you don’t understand and don’t care for. “Why does anyone think this is good? What’s the point?” you say. Art doesn’t have a point – it’s about what moves you and makes you react. Sometimes the art that affects you the most comes from less well-known creators. Here is a list of some less-celebrated artists whose work you might appreciate…


1. Joseph Decruex

Possibly the most recognisable of the artists listed here, Decreux was a famous and well-respected portrait painter from 18th Century France. It was his portrait of Marie Antoinette which was sent to Louis, future King of France, so that he would know what his future bride would look like before he met her. But that is not why we celebrate Decruex today. He attempted to break away from the serious format of portraiture and capture the real-life emotions, personalities and expressions of the human body. His best known work is a self-portrait where he smirks and points at the viewer – today known as the Decreux Meme – overlaid with verbose and antiquated translations of song lyrics. ‘Gentlemen, I inquire: who hath released the hounds?” The series also includes yawns and timorous glances.

2. Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Bernini’s Pluto and Persephone

Bernini is one of the most famous architects in European history and founder of the Baroque style. He designed, among others, the enormous piazza outside the Vatican. He was also a good painter and remarkable sculptor. His Pluto and Persephone, depicting in marble Plutos’ kidnapping of the goddess, is especially notable, as Bernini somehow captures in cold stone the warm and ‘squidgy’ quality of the human body – Plutos’ rough grasp digging into Persephone’s side. Capturing such dynamism and reality in stone is something anyone can appreciate.

3. The Mughal Court Painters

As part of a school of painting, which brought together the traditions of Persia and India, the Mughal painters created beautiful portraits and illustrations for the royal court of the Mughal emperors, whose empire stretched across all India and Pakistan. The use of colour and patterns as well as tiny detailing such as the individual pearls of a necklace, stem from a completely different tradition than western art purveyors are used to. The colours and interpretations of animals and nature are novel, and the hidden secrets found only on closer inspection are always a treat.

4. Glenn Brown

Brown’s Shallow Deaths

A London-based artist from Northumbria, Brown has been accused of plagiarism in the past for his unique practices. His style consists of taking the works of other artists – contemporary or long-dead – and reworking them. He changes the proportions, the colours, the concepts of space and distance and ends up with what he calls ‘schizophrenic perspectives’. The result is something unreal and turbulent – like the faces we see are only accidentally interpreted from paint spills or random shapes. There is an urge to reach out and touch his paintings – they seem three-dimensional.

5. Ilya Repin

Close up of ‘Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan’

A Russian painter from the 19th century, Repin is the Leo Tolstoy of art, bringing the Russian art scene onto the international stage. He painted in realism – creating an almost photographic, documentary sense that suggests what he depicts really happened. He also looks uncannily like Keanu Reeves. His paintings, Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, and Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan, are very famous as they are the most widely-circulated depictions of those historic events. His painting of Ivan the Terrible shows the mad Russian tsar in the moments of terror and regret just after he beat his son to death in a murderous rage. The look of heartbreak and fear captured in the tsar’s eyes is perhaps one of the most affecting expressions put to canvas. ​


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