Their masterpieces are easily identifiable in museums but sometimes, it’s hard to put a face to the famous artist’s name. LIFE recently curated an amazing gallery of the “40 Most Revealing Artists Portraits,” featuring the likes of Picasso, Pollock, Dali, de Kooning, and more, which any analogue photography or art enthusiast would admire.
Photographed by various staff and commissioned photographers of LIFE magazine, these telling portraits of artists at work present the creative process behind each successful, museum-worthy masterpiece and the moods conveyed by the individuals who brought them to fruition.
“Here, LIFE.com presents a series of portraits of the artists who reimagined and redefined ways of seeing the world throughout the 20th century. Pollock is here, and Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe and even Renoir. But can casual art fans actually identify a photograph of, say, Claes Oldenburg? Or Jasper Johns (83 years old today, May 15)? Or Barbara Hepworth or Giorgio de Chirico? What’s wonderful about the 41 pictures here, including those (like the deeply shadowed silhouettes of Hopper and O’Keeffe) in which we perceive a sense of the figure, rather than the details of his or her visage, is that each photo reveals something specifically, uniquely essential about the artist. After all, one would be hard-pressed to find two more dissimilar portraits than those of Arshile Gorky and Robert Rauschenberg. But each of those photographs in this gallery 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 artwork.
See the full gallery of _The 40 Most Revealing Artist Portraits_ on LIFE.com.
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