Jasper Johns 1958
Jasper Johns, 1958 Note: This gallery is best viewed in "Full Screen" mode. See button at right.Peter Stackpole—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Jasper Johns 1958
Thomas Hart Benton, 1939
Louise Bourgeois 1983
Georgia O'Keeffe photographed on the roof of her Ghost Ranch home in New Mexico, 1967.
Marcel Duchamp 1952
Georges Braque 1946
Pablo Picasso 1949
Elaine de Kooning 1964
Alexander Calder 1952
Jackson Pollock 1949
Marc Chagall 1960
Henri Matisse sculpts a nude in clay, Nice, France, 1951.
Roy Lichtenstein 1963
Herman Cherry 1946
Christo 1968
Salvador Dali 1950
Giorgio de Chirico 1949
Willem de Kooning 1945
Guy du Bois 1949
Marisol Escobar 1957
Lyonel Feininger 1951
Alberto Giacometti 1951
Robert Rauschenberg 1951
Arshile Gorky 1945
Barbara Hepworth 1964
Eva Hesse 1969
Edward Hopper 1967
Edward Kienholz 1965
Franz Kline 1954
Fernand Leger 1949
Peter Max 1967
Henry Moore 1946
Isamu Noguchi 1946
Claes Oldenburg 1960
Man Ray 1947
Ad Reinhardt 1966
Auguste Renoir, 1919
Georges Rouault 1949
Richard Serra 1969
Ben Shahn 1954
Jacques Villon 1949
Jasper Johns, 1958 Note: This gallery is best viewed in "Full Screen" mode. See button at right.
Peter Stackpole—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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Portraits of the Artists: Painters and Sculptors by LIFE Photographers

Nov 19, 2014

It's always eye-opening to see the men and women behind famous works of art. And yet, while Picasso, Dali, Matisse and perhaps a handful of other "art superstars" are recognized around the world, countless other painters and sculptors of note — including some of the finest, most influential artists of the past century — are, in a sense, invisible. Their works endure; but their look — their faces, the way they held themselves — is often an utter blank in the mind of the casual art enthusiast.

Here, LIFE.com presents a series of portraits of the artists who re-imagined and redefined the way we see the world. Pollock is here, and Picasso, along with Georgia O'Keeffe and even Renoir. But can art aficionados actually identify a photograph of, say, Claes Oldenburg? Jasper Johns? Barbara Hepworth? Giorgio de Chirico?

[MORE: "Georgia O'Keeffe: Invincible"]

What's wonderful about the pictures here, including those (like the deeply shadowed silhouettes of Hopper and O'Keeffe) in which we perceive a powerful sense of the full figure, rather than discrete details, is that each photo reveals something uniquely essential about the artist. One would be hard-pressed to find two more dissimilar portraits than those of Arshile Gorky and Robert Rauschenberg; but each of those captures an aspect of the artist's personality and sensibility (Gorky's moody intensity; Rauschenberg's exuberance) that, in a heartbeat, helps us see something — even if it's only a glimpse — of the human being behind the art.

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