These artists and works inspired me and I hope they inspire you also. A list like this could go on forever, so I have limited it to those artists who MOST inspired me!
Mosaics are one of the most ancient art forms, quite literally, as they adorned Roman and Greek palaces. Some of the mosaics are great works of art, such as the one above, which is from the 4th century BC and depicts a stag hunt. Additionally what fascinates me is that mosaics made out of stone do not fade and weather like paintings and so look the same now as they did thousands of years ago.
I love the simplicity and directness of medieval art. OK so they had not figured out perspective, nor the full nuance of painting which came from the later renaissance masters, but they made up for it with almost modern composition and directness, and they were not afraid of bold colours. The work of this period, in Europe, was often Christian in nature and the above work shows Mary Magdalen announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles. This picture is St Albans Psalter, English, 1120–1145.
Jan van Eyck
The Flemish master Jan van Eyck (approximately 1380 to 1441) is a huge figure in the development of painting. He pioneered techniques in oil painting.
Johannes Vermeer (1632 to 1675) further pioneered oil painting techniques, composition and subject matter.
Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh was the seminal tragic painter of the 19th century. He had a dynamic painting style and a great sense of colour. I love the way his brush strokes form an important part of his paintings.
Paul Gauguin searched for a better world for much of his life, and then tried to portray it beautifully in art. He arguably failed in the former but definitely succeeded in the latter.
Vassily Kandinsky (1866 to 1944), is an intellectual father figure for modern abstract art. He taught art in Moscow after the October Revolution, but soon found his ideas out of line with the Communists. So he moved to Germany, and taught art theory at the legendary Bauhuas art school in Weimar. Alas the Nazis did not like his ideas either and some of his works were confiscated and exhibited in the infamous Nazi ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition before being burned. Again he moved, this time to Paris, where he settled for the rest of is life.
Marc Chagall painted beautiful and spiritual paintings drawn from his interest in the peasant and Jewish mysticism he had grown up with in his native Russia. He was a commissar for a few years after the 1917 revolution but soon had to flee the increasingly repressive Soviet regime. He settled in Paris but had to flee again, this time to the USA, after the Nazis invaded France in 1940 and began to round up Jews.
Salvador Dali was the best known Surrealist painter and hugely technically gifted as an artist. His paintings explored many of the European ideas of his time, especially Freudian ideas about the mind.
Edward Hopper lived quietly in America and painted many evocative pictures of an era ignored by many of his contemporaries.
Andy Warhol injected major impetus into American Pop Art and made the commercial screen printing process acceptable as fine art. In some ways he himself was almost a work of art.
A pop artist like Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein also used commercial printing techniques to make paintings that were inspired by comics.
Jean Michel Basquiat was a major New York painter of the 1980s. His tragic and early death put a stop to a great talent.