The 15 Most Famous Black Painters Of All Time

15 Most Famous Black Painters Of All Time

There are many famous black painters throughout history. In this blog post, we will explore the life and work of some of the most renowned black artists ever to paint. From abstract expressionism to realism, these painters have created some truly iconic artworks that have inspired and moved audiences around the world. Over the world, you may have heard about the artists name from American, Asian, African, Spanish, and many other communities. But today, here in this blog, we will introduce you to the famous black painters of all time. We hope you enjoy learning about these incredible artists!

Some of their names of them got buried inside the books, and people may not have learned or read about them. But their contribution is also worthy, and they also need to be on top of people’s knowledge. The world must know who were these greatest artists of all time and what struggles they faced during their period. And when the Black Live Matter movement becomes trending across the earth, it becomes more important to tell that black painters also matter. 

James W. Washington Jr. (November 10, 1908-June 7, 2000):

Black Painter James W. Washington Jr.
James W. Washington Jr was an Afro-American painter and a renowned sculptor. His work in the field of arts provided him prominence in the entire Seattle, Washington, art community. He came to know about his painting talent when he was 12 years old. His different paintings were always based on African and Afro-American subjects. One of his famous paintings that address the topic of racism is “The Making of the UN Charter (1945).” This painting came out from the martyr of Black people who died with a hope of freedom during World War II. James found his hidden talent as a sculptor when he found an engaging piece of stone in the street and then spent most of his life days carving granite material into a piece of art.


Charles Alston (November 28, 1907 -April 27, 1977) :

Charles Alston Famous Black Painter

The name that many 20th-century people may never forget was Charles Alston. He was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. He remained a part of the Harlem Renaissance (New Negro Movement), which was an African-American Cultural Movement. He used to do Mural paintings and illustrations. He has also transferred his artistic skills to Harlem Community Art Centre students, where he used to be a teacher. He has remained a teacher of famous painter Jacob Lawrence. He being Afro-American, came to know about African art style later when he entered his professional career and supported other black artists in 1920 who refused to exhibit their projects at William E Foundation. He, at that time, agreed with other black artists that their pieces of art were not only made for the White audience. From 1930-to 1940, he focused on making Illustrations for the magazine. Then in 1935, Charles worked on his first Mural project. In 1935 he got the chance to make a mural painting for Harlem Hospital. And then, He successfully contributed to the masterpiece of Mural art named “Magic in Medicine and Modern Medicine (1936.).”

Archibald Motley (October 7, 1891 -January 16, 1981) :

Archibald Motley Famous Black Painter

Archibald Motley is one of the best-documented historic & influential black painters of all time. He was famous for his identity as an American visual artist. He remained and contributed a significant part of his artistic talent to Harlem Renaissance and Chicago Black Renaissance. He mainly grew up and studied in a white community. Even growing up in a community of white, he never loosed his focus on doing work for Black people. He started involving themes and subjects based on black people in his art and paintings when he began his career. His primary focus was to end racism. He used to bring a message through his portraits for his broad audience that educates people on the white and black politics going across the world. Some of his famous paintings are ‘Bronzeville at Night,’ ‘Stomp,’ Black Belt,’ ‘Octoroon Girl,’ ‘The Mulatress,’ ‘The Nightlife,’ and ‘Getting Religion.’ Archibald was honoured many times for his work. In 1925, He won Frank G Logan Prize. In 1980 he got honours from President Jimmy Carter at the White House. The scenes that he used to add to his painting were highly determined by the Jazz Culture. Nowadays, people use to call him a Jazz Age Modernist.

Faith Ringgold (October 8, 1930 - ) :

Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold is a Black woman whose name still shines in the 21st century as one of the best Veteran female painters alive. She is now 91 years old and now spends her life last years in America. She is an expert in paintings, performance art, sculpture, and narrative quilts. She remained an art teacher for schools and colleges in New York. But she quit teaching to become a full-time artist in 1973. Getting involved in her artwork, she got inspired by many African artists, including African Art, Impressionism, and Cubism. Doing paintings on Canvas was good, but she found more comfort in doing paintings on quilts and then switched from painting to fabrics. Her painting called Tar Beach, made in 1990 on a quilt tells the story of Cassie Louise Lightfoot (a girl who dreams of flying.) Another talent of hers that was introduced to the world in 1991 was story writing and illustrating. In her life, she has written and illustrated 17 books for children. Some of the best art pieces from her different artistic skills are The American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding (1967), Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima? (1983,) Street Story Quilt (1985), and many others are available across the different museums of the world. Faith is one of the most admired artists of 2021.

James Van Der Zee (June 29, 1886 - May 15,1983) :

James Van Der Zee

James Van Der Zee shares his full name as James Augustus Van Der Zee. At the beginning of his career, he was not a painting artist but aspired to become a
professional artist. Then leaving his first interest of being a musician, this Black artist found his second interest in photography. His destiny to become a portrait Photography artist began when he started his job as a photographer, from which he learned so many things related to art. In the 1930’s he faced difficulty earning from his photography work. Then he predominantly worked in the studio and paid a lot of focus on his profession. He started doing Portrait 
photography by using different props, architectural elements, backdrops, and costumes. Then he becomes one of the best ] portrait painters ever born in the world.

He started applying the expressions and poses of the celebrities to his customers and gave a new glamour look to his portrait photography. He made a lot of photographed portraits of black New Yorkers. His work was collected in The Harlem Book of the Dead in 1978.Previously, he got a lot of reorganization due to his works as a portrait photographer when his work got exhibited in 1969 at Harlem on My Mind exhibition. One of his famous portraits, “Evening Attire (1922),” is available at Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Henry Taylor ( 1958- ) :

Henry Taylor

Henry, now 64 years old painter, is a professional in artistic works like acrylic painting, mixed media sculptures, and Installations. His nickname is Henry VIII. As an artist, he doesn’t need to buy Canvas to paint his mind-blowing designs; in fact, he does paints on materials
like detergent boxes, cereal boxes, empty cigarette packs, furniture, crates, and many other things. His paintings on different materials are based on the ideas and people around him, whether his family, friends, patients, strangers, celebrities, waitresses, homeless people, himself, cultural figures, sports heroes, historical figures, politicians, and any other people other thing or individuals. Henry Taylor, who added his name to the list of black abstract painters with his extraordinary painting style, has been declared by experts as bold, vibrant, generous, and loving. Experts even shared that his visualizing gives a blues music experience. One of his paintings, “Cicely and Miles Visit
the Obamas (2017),” can be seen in front of the American White House. His other famous works are “The Times Ain’t A Changing, Fast Enough” and his untitled self-portrait.

Barkley L. Hendricks ( April 16, 1945 - April 18, 2017 ) :

Barkley L. Hendricks

Once a teacher Barkley Leonard Hendricks left the world when he was 72 years old, his different portraits, drawings, and illustrations are now a part of various museums. He was one of the finest contemporary artists. He made a breakthrough contribution to portraiture and conceptualism based on Black people. He was skilled in photography and landscape paintings. His every masterpiece of art is an oil portrait of Black Americans.

During his tenure as a professor at Studio Art at Connecticut College, he got the chance to visit the different countries of the world. When Barkley L Hendricks visited Europe, he found that black people were missing from Western Art. He didn’t find any piece of art made by black people. So he decided to change this fact. He then focused on painting Black Americans. He made portraits that represent the voice of under-represented Black People of the 1960s and 1970s. 

He helped in adding the work of many black classical painters to the different popular art museums of the world. His popular portraits are available at famous museums like the National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Tate Modern, Studio Museum in Harlem, and National Endowment for the Arts. One of his best-known paintings made by him during the production of a series of Young black men paintings is “What’s Going on (1974.) In May 2017, one month after Barkley L Hendricks’s death, his painting “Yocks (1975)” was sold for $942500, and it was again resold in May 2019 at Sotheby’s Auctions house for USD 3.72 million.

Ernest Eugene Barnes Jr. ( July 15, 1938 - April 27, 2009 ) :

Ernest Eugene Barnes Jr.

Ernie Barnes, also famous by his full name Ernest Eugene Barner Jr., was not only one of the famous painters but also remained a
football player, actor, and author. He left playing football at the age of 27. In the 21st year of his age, he sold his first-ever painting made by him, “Slow Dance,” for USD 90. He gave credit to Ed Wilson for finding a great painting artist inside him and developing all his skills related to painting. He created many paintings based on sports like boxing, tennis, basketball, gymnastics, etc. He also got the title of “Sports Artist of the year” in 1985.

His painting “The Bench,” which his wife presented to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014 after his death in 2007, remained a part of media talks. He made this painting in less than an hour on Canvas after getting inspiration from the match Between Baltimore Colts and New York Giants. Another painting of him, “The Sugar Shack,” remained one the most famous painting ever made by any artist. He shared that his painting “The Sugar Shack” used to resemble his childhood because he never got the chance to go dance classes. First time in 1976, his painting copy was used on the cover page of the Album “I Want You” by Marvin Gaye (1976.) On 12th May 2022, the original painting “The Sugar Shack” got sold at Christie’s auction. It is purchased by an American Businessman Bill Perkins for USD 153.3 million. His other paintings have been used on the cover page of many albums.

Gwendolyn B. Bennett ( July 8, 1902 - May 30, 1981) :

Gwendolyn B. Bennett

Gwendolyn B. Bennett remained a writer, journalist, and Artist throughout her whole life. She contributed a lot to Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life for her Black people. She was a self-made artist and one of the best female painters in history. She began taking art classes at Columbia University and the Pratt Institute. In 1924 she started teaching design, watercolour paintings, and Crafts to the Howards University students. While teaching she time went to Paris to get more education in Fine arts. She there developed skills in using various materials like watercolor, woodcuts, oil, pen, ink, and Batik in her paintings. Getting training in Paris at Academie Julian, she began her career as a Graphic artist in 1925.

Being a prominent figure, she directly impacted the motives and essence of the Harlem Renaissance. She not only contributed her life to making paintings but also wrote the best poetry & poems of all time. Her poem “Fantasy” is based on the pride of Afro-Americans. She worked for Opportunity magazine in 1926 as an assistant to the editor. There she provided much artwork to Opportunity covers and themes. Most of her artwork for Opportunity was based on racism. She is highly known to many people for her poem “To a Dark Girl.”

Joshua Johnson ( c.1763 - c.1824 ) :

Joshua Johnson

Joshua Johnson has half European and half African ancestry but belongs to the Baltimore area. He was professional in naïve paintings (naive art.) It is said that this naive artist was purchased by his father, George Johnson (a white man), from one Black slave woman only for 25 pounds. Then later, when Joshua reached his 21st year of age, he got released. When in 1782, he got freedom, he began sharing his identity as a portrait painter and limner. 

As an independent artist, he served in Baltimore for over 30 years (1795-1824). In these 30 years, he decorated 80 different portraits of merchants, shopkeepers, sea captains, and some more. He painted many portraits of families years before the camera was invented. His famous painting of three male kids of Margaret and John Westwood (a businessman) is available in the National Gallery of art. This painting is named “The Westwood Children.” Many artists now consider Joshua Johnson as a self-taught notable “Folk” Artist.

Jacob Lawrence ( September 7, 1917- June 9, 2000 ) :

Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence, an aspiring painter who followed Dynamic Cubism in his panting style, was known for his portrayal of African-American historical subjects and contemporary life. Like many other artists, Jacob also gained experience as a professor at the University of Washington. His works primarily include narratives as well as an illustration of regular experiences of life of African-Americans and their history and historical figures.

When he was 23 years old, he portrayed the hard time of migration of Afro-Americans from the rural south to urban North America in his 60 panels series “The Migration Series.”

One painting that he made in 1947 titled “The Builders” is increasing the pride of the White House even in the 21st century. He got honors and the rank of petty officer third class for his serving in the US Coast Guard as a public affairs specialist during World War II. At that time, while serving, he kept on making his painting. And at that time, he also developed paintings based on his experience of ongoing war around the world. A total of 48 paintings were made by him during World War II but all got lost.

Glenn Ligon ( In 1960- ) :

Glenn Ligon, a New York-born artist, is famous for his Conceptual form of art. Most of his works bring the message to narrow thinking related to racism, language difference, desire, sexuality, and identity. He is an expert in making drawings, sculptures, neon, and paintings. Not only this, standing at the top of the greatest artists of all time showed the world his idea of incorporating texts in his different paintings.

Many of his works are currently available at art galleries and museums. Anyone can experience Glenn’s notable works like “I Feels Most Coloured (1992)” at Blanton Museum of Art, Austin. Runaways (1993) at Museum of Contemporary art, White #15 (1994) at Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut, and more.

Jean-Michel Basquiat ( December 22, 1960 - August 12, 1988 ) :

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s a popular name among modern artists. He remained a part of success during the ’80s, but his success didn’t stay with him for long as he died at the age of 27. He remained famous just like other painters from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

The leading cause of his death remained Heroin Overdose. In 27 years of his life, he has given the world some precious pieces of art. Word will be less if we start telling about this artist’s famous paintings and arts will be enough to tell you about his artistic talent. After his death, his painting Untitled (Skull), representing a black skull with red and yellow rivulets, was sold for USD 110.5 million in 2017. It is said

to be the most expensive painting ever sold across the world at that time. He was proficient in street art and Graffiti. Some of his paintings and drawings that remained popular are Defacement (1983,) Boy and Dog in Johnny pump (1982,) Hollywood Africans(1983)


Question : list of Famous Homosexual black Painters?

Answer : Here, we have added the list of gay & lesbian artists who created some great pieces of paintings.

  • Kehinde Wiley
  • Christian Dior Hickman-Jackson
  • Hippy potter
  • Jarvis Hopkins
  • Brianna Mari

Question : What is gay art called?

Answer : A style of art followed by gay, lesbian, queer, or a member of the LGBTQ community is a part of gay art. It is also known as queeraesthetics or LGBT + Art. It includes the practice of modern and contemporary visuals of lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender.

Question : Who is the richest black painter of all time ?  

Answer : Kerry James Marshall, famous for his black-figure painting, is now the Richest Black painter of all time. In 2018 one of his paintings, “Past Times,” was sold for USD 21.1 million.

Question : Who is the popular Black painter of the jazz age ?

Answer : Archibald John Motley, Jr., whose works are referred to as
Harlem Renaissance and Chicago Black Renaissance,

Question : Name of emerging or upcoming notable black painters?

Answer : here is the list of emerging painters-

  • Gilles Mayk Navangi
  • Abraham Ogunlende
  • Azuka Much
  • David Gumbs
  • Kristen Woolery

Question : Name of the African French painters?

Answer: Many may not know that these artists have spent time in France and created a masterpiece of art.

  • Richmond Barthé
  • Beauford Delaney
  • Barbara Chase-Riboud
  • Sam Gilliam

Question : Top 5 black British landscape painters.

Answer : Many times people ask for the British landscape painters from the 1930s; we have added some of the famous ones kindly read.

  • Frank Bowling (born 1934)
  • Lubaina Himid (born 1954)
  • Keith Piper (born 1960)
  • Sonia Boyce (born 1962)
  • Chris Ofili (born 1968)

Question : 5 African American Artists From the 19th Century

Answer : 19th Century has remained an inspiration to many, and some of the inspiring painters are 

  • Robert S. Duncanson
  • Edmonia Lewis
  • Henry Ossawa Tanner
  • Malvin Gray Johnson
  • Edward Mitchell Banniste

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