Famous Painters of the 21st Century

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Art in all its forms has always undergone evolutionary changes by opening to new ways and untrodden paths. In fact, the changes are so numerous that almost every artist may be said to have contributed towards bringing one or the other change. Contemporary painting trends in the early 21st century have evolved from the global changes in environment, political situations, and the surge of wars and terrorism. A lot of orange and black colors depicting flames and smoke predominate paintings of the 21st century. History repeats itself, and it is particularly manifest in paintings. There used to be flat, miniature paintings by old masters like Chughtai. Handwritten manuscripts had always one-dimensional paintings which gradually developed into two-dimensional, and over a period of time into three-dimensional paintings. A contemporary painting trend known as ‘SoFlo Superflat’ seems to be a reversion to a single dimension like the Mughal miniatures. The availability of new media, environment, and techniques have also influenced the contemporary paintings. To emphasize the need for reuse of the non-renewable fossil fuel products, painters like David Macaluso have created excellent paintings like the portrait of President Obama using used motor oil.

1. Rackstraw Downes

Rackstraw Downes
Rackstraw Downes

Rodney Harry Rackstraw Downes, better known as Rackstraw Downes, was born in 1939 in Pembury, Kent, England. He studied at Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, Connecticut, and graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from Cambridge University and received his M.F.A. from Yale School of Art. He has also taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Parsons School of Design, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He started with abstract art but changed to landscape and cityscape painting. Downes’ paintings are characterized by their broad scope and in-depth details. Downes received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998 and was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship ‘genius award’ in 2009. Ken Johnson, New York Times critic commented that Downes ‘paints beautiful pictures of ugly places.’

2. Chen Yifei

Chen Yifei
Chen Yifei

Chen Yifei was born on April 12, 1946 and died on April 10, 2005. He was the first student from the Republic of China to study in the U.S. in 1980. He received his Master’s degree from Hunter College, and his work displayed there was a great success. He is one of the most famous Chinese painters. He is best known for his portraits of Mao and oil paintings of the Cultural Revolution and Tibet along with his impressionistic paintings of the Zhejiang Province. In spite of his capitalist thoughts, he was acknowledged by authorities purely on a meritorious basis especially by virtue of his excellent oil paintings.

3. Andre Durand

Andre Durand
Andre Durand (‘Coronation of the virgin’)

Andre Durand was born in Ottawa, Canada in 1947. He became internationally famous after creating his official portraits of Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama. His most appreciated works include allegorical portraits like Lady Diana’s ‘Fortuna.’ His most famous portraits include the portrait of Irish Novelist Elizabeth Bowen displayed in London’s National Portrait Gallery. Durand was inspired by Michelangelo, Titian, and Rubens. From 2000 to 2006 he painted a Christian narrative in the background of the Sussex countryside, and his work was displayed in the churches of Sussex in 2006.

 4. David Maculso

David Maculso
David Maculso

David Maculso was raised in Long Island, New York and lived later on in Brooklyn. He is best known for his oil paintings like the portrait of President Obama. He reused the used motor oil to create some of his most famous paintings. The idea behind it was to reuse the non-renewable fossil fuel products. In consideration of the unique reuse of the used motor oil for the purpose of creating his oil paintings, he can be rightly considered an environmentalist painter. Macaluso collects the motor oil for his paintings from a local mechanic.

5. Federico Aguilar Alcuaz

Federico Aguilar Alcuaz
Federico Aguilar Alcuaz

Federico Aguilar Alcuaz was born in 1932 in Manila. He studied fine arts at the University of Philippines. He attended Real Academia de Bellas de San Fernando in Madrid but did not stay for more than two weeks for the intended one-year study because the teachers opined that he was too far ahead of his classmates. He finished a portrait or a landscape in a record seven minutes, and the writer Anthony John R. Balisi commented that it ‘Means seven minutes and a lifetime of practice.’ Foreign culture is reflected in his paintings.

6.  Ang Kiukok

Ang Kiukok
The grave of Ang Kiukok

Ang Kiukok was born in 1931 and studied at the University of Santo Tomas. He started painting still life and goldfish and gradually changed to painting the objects in pain. He seems to have some empathy for tortured mankind and animals. He is best known for his expressionist paintings of the crucified Christ. He polished his skills under the guidance of masters like Victorio Edades, Diosdado Lorenzo, and Vicente Manasala. He assisted Manasala in doing a mural of the cross for the Church of the Holy sacrifice.

7. Takashi Murakmi

Takashi Murakmi
Takashi Murakmi

Takashi Murakmi was born on February 1, 1962 in Tokyo, Japan. Since his early days he was attracted towards animation of ‘Manga’ and aspired to be an animator. He attended Tokyo University of Art to improve his drafting skills aiming at becoming an animator. Later on he focussed on Nihonga, the traditional Japanese style of painting involving Japanese conventions, objects, and media. He received his Ph.D. in Nihonga, but he soon rejected it on account of political thoughts and started seeking information about contemporary art. Takashi Murakami founded the Superflat Movement which emphasizes outlines and flat colors which is not a three-dimensional painting. Britto, Ceron and Caron are a few of the artists belonging to the SoFlo Superflat Movement.

8. Benedicto Cabrera ‘Bencab’

Benedicto Cabrera 'Bencab'
Benedicto Cabrera ‘Bencab’

Benedicto Reyes, better known as Benedicto Cabera, nicknamed as ‘Bencab,’ was born to Democrito Cabrera and Isabel Reye in Malabon, Rizal, Philippines on August 27, 1942. He received his degree in Fine Arts from the University of Philippines in 1963. He is considered the best-selling painter of his time. The government of the Philippines awarded him the Order of National Artist for Visual Arts in 2006. In 2009 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Philippines.

9. Antonio Austria

Antonio Austria
Antonio Austria (‘Sari-sari’)

Antonio Gilbuena Austria, commonly known as Antonio Austria, was born to Pedro Austria and Lucila Gilbuena in Shanghai on May 5, 1936. University of Santo Thomas (UST) was his alma mater, and he taught there for 27 years. His subjects are wide-ranging from commoners to the elite and from beautiful to weird objects.  He is best known for his compositions. He is a truly Philippine artist and desired to be seen through his Philippine themes in his paintings.

10. Michiel Conrad Botha

Michiel Conrad Botha
Michiel Conrad Botha

Michiel Conrad Botha was born in Pretoria, South Africa on August 9, 1972, but he was raised in a distant locality, Witbank, where he received his early education. He graduated from the University of Johannesburg. He is the founding member of the Superstroke Movement. The movement manifesto requires prominently expressive brush strokes, texture, and pencil strokes. The movement is not in favor of the ‘Art for the Sake of Art’ philosophy. The Superstroke Movement emerged as a reaction to the Superflat Movement.


Many new movements have influenced the trends in painting like algorithmic art which is a computer-generated art. Graffiti is sort of an illegal wall chalking in public places, and ‘hyperrealism’ is like developing a high-resolution picture. Anti-ruling party feelings have been expressed in his work just like they have been in some musical genres. Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist of international fame, was imprisoned in 2011 on the charge of spreading pornography. Global art fairs have also impacted the painting trends in the first decade of the 21st century. Some of the fairs started in this century include: Athens Biennial, Beijing International Art, Biennial Art Dubai, Art Abu Dhabi, and Berlin Biennial. Other than Soflo, Superflat, and Hyperrealism already mentioned, there are some other genres; Metamodernism, Neo-minimalism, Relationship Art and Super Stroke. The few listed genres, however, do not rule out the existence of many others.




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One Response

  1. stefan duncan

    December 19, 2015 5:07 pm

    I created the artstyle called “Squiggleism,” a living spirit art. The vangoghgallery.com on their Impact of Art page dubbed me the “American Van Gogh,” although I have created my own style called Squiggleism, a Living Spirit Art, impressionistic dashes of unblended color with a curve or swirl applied in staggered, flowing formattion. An art critic said I took the neurosis out of Van Gogh’s work. One critic said that Van Gogh painted out of pain and darkness while I painting of Light and Hope. Art design students from around the world doing school papers write of how I represent a modern day artist influenced by Van Gogh. It was Van Gogh that taught my eyes how to hear the Divine music that ebbs and flows in nature. The brush is my baton. Each stroke I see as a unit or like musical note made of the Divine’s energy/essence that is in all that exists. My mission in my work is to inspire peace, hope, and faith by symbolicly suggesting hints of the Divine’s presence in nature. One of my favorite subjects to express this is light upon trees. 1986 I was in a coma for three weeks and mother told I was dying. When they unplugged me, my mother got on her knees and prayed. I awakened in the next room after my oxygen had been turned off with tubes still in my chest. I could not longer write to pursue my novelist dream, but please read about my goose story that led me to become an artist. I made a pac with God 15 years ago in a little art studio in Fayetteville, N, C. I would seek to give the world more Light, peace, and hope through my paintings to serve God. I made the pac that if God continued to provide the means for me to paint I would never stop. For 15 years without knowing how much money I would make each month, God has provided. Sometimes it came close to the wire, but suddenly out of no where I would make some sells to get me over. I was blessed to re-connect with my highschool sweetheart who became my wife. 2015 I won the Heritage Award for Freelance Visual Artist by the Artist Music Guild that will be televised as live on PBS to an estimated 16 million viewers in 17 countries. I would be honored to paint live or do an event to have people paint with me, creating a “Living Spirit Art” painting, a new movement I am seeking to spread across the world.


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