12 Underestimated Artists of the Past Century

12 Underestimated Artists of the Past Century

Legendary artists like Pablo Picasso always come up in casual conversations and social references due to their famous paintings. But for every Picasso and Warhol, there is a lesser-known artist that also deserves recognition. Granted, they might not be as talented as those mentioned above, but that doesn’t mean that they should fade into obscurity.

Moreover, most of these underrated maestros come from underprivileged backgrounds or simply refused to conform to populist aesthetics. Others simply came up in regimes that did everything possible to stifle their creativity and art.

So, this article appreciates some of these underestimated artists from the past century. This list is not comprehensive by any means. We gathered a list of noteworthy mentions, and here are their stories.

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864 – 1933)

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh

Margaret Macdonald was a Scottish artist who popularized the Glasgow Style — which promoted Celtic symbolism.

Unlike artists of her time, Margaret did not have a sketchbook: she drew inspiration from her memory or robust imagination. She also consulted works like the Bible for inspiration. Most of her works feature elements of human nudity and interfused geometric and natural forms.

Some of her famous works include:

  • Opera of the Winds
  • Seven Princesses
  • Ophelia
  • White Rose and Red
  • The May Queen

Lyubov Popova (1889 – 1924)

Lyubov Popova was a Russian artist who spent her entire life in pre-Soviet Russia. Popova was one of the early female pioneers of Cubo-futurism. She was also a proponent of constructivism and suprematism.

Lyubov Popova was also an excellent industrial designer, working with clothing fabrics, book designs, and photomontages.

Some of her most famous works include The Pianist and Violin.

Mimmo Rotella (1918 – 2006)

With a Smile, Mimmo Rotella, Tate Museum Collection

Mimmo Rotella is a post-war European artist who is underappreciated in pop culture. Rotella is famous for his psychogeographic style, fully expressed in his Marilyn 2 masterpiece.

Although a lot of controversy looms over the dating of his works, you cannot take away from the significance of his artistic achievements and contributions.

Some of his works include Little Monument to Rotella, Casablanca, Not in Venice, Muro Romano, With a Smile, and A strappo deciso.

Mira Schendel (1919 – 1988)

Mira SChendel

Mira Schendel was a Brazilian contemporary artist famous for her drawings on rice paper. She was also a sculptor, painter, and poet throughout her life. As a result, you can see elements of poetry in her art. Schendel’s work also established a connection between language and art by incorporating calligraphy and sublime lettering elements.

Some of her works include Monotypes, Droguinhas, Trenzinho, and Objetos gráficos.

Richard Artschwager (1923 – 2013)

Description of Table, Richard Artschwager, Whitney Museum Collection

Description of Table, Richard Artschwager, Whitney Museum Collection

Richard Artschwager was an American painter and illustrator famous for his work that captured conceptual art and minimalism. As with other under-recognized artists of his time, his inventive nature kept him from becoming a renowned artist. Artschwager’s legacy is typified by one of his most famous creations — The Description of Table, which has inspired other artists and sculptors over the years.

Seung-Taek Lee (B. 1932)

Breaking into the mainstream as a non-Western artist or painter takes a lot of effort or sheer luck: this is the case of Seung-Taek Lee. The Korean artist is one of the pioneers of reductive minimalism outside the western art world. He is commonly associated with the concept of “anti-art.” 

Carroll Dunham (B. 1949)


Carroll Dunham is an American painter that has played a significant role in contemporary art in the modern era. If the surname sounds familiar to you, that’s because he is Lena Dunham’s (the actress) father. Although Carroll Dunham is not necessarily underestimated, he definitely deserves more recognition from the art community and the general public as well.

Age of Rectangles, 1983-1985

Age of Rectangles, 1983-1985

Some of his famous artworks include Large Bather (quicksand), Bather/Night, and Age of Rectangles.

Mark Bradford (B. 1961)

Mark Bradford is a Los Angeles-born artist that is known for his collage works and painting method. Bradford combines elements of décollage and abstraction to create images that embody the relationships between the past and the future.

Monster, Mark Bradford

Monster, Mark Bradford

One of his most famous artworks is Monster. He is also the current highest-selling African-American (living) artist after his Helter Skelter I painting went at an auction for 1.2 million USD.

Jim Lambie (B. 1964)

The Scottish-born contemporary artist infuses elements of ‘pop’ in his abstract works. Lambie is also known for compelling and flamboyant sculpting and installations. He is also famous for using vinyl tape as a core element of his work. Although Jim Lambie was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2005, he is nowhere as famous as his talents deserve.

Some of his most famous works include Sound System and Zobop.

Odili Donald Odita (B. 1966)

Odita is a Nigerian painter who is quite famous for his abstraction. His artwork also reflects aspects of indigenous artistry with a mixture of Western modernism. Odita’s style often features a canvas of brightly colored, contrasting hues spread across the canvas. The artist currently resides in the United States, and you can see his works in galleries in New York and other parts of the country.

Tomma Abts (B. 1967)

Meko, Tomma Abts

Meko, Tomma Abts

Tomma Abts is the 2006 Turner Prize-winning artist who is famous for her abstract oil paintings. Tomma Abts’s work stands out from her peers because she works on canvases of the same size — 48 x 38 cm. Tomma maintains a consistent color scheme in all her paintings, making subtle variations in the 3D elements, which she creates by layering.

Eva Rothschild (B. 1971)

Eva Rothschild is an Irish artist that emphasizes the principles of minimalism and contemporary ideals. Rothschild is not shy to express that her work encompasses non-subtle elements of activism that espouse the values of freedom, diversity, and peace.

Here is a list of some of her best pieces:

  1. XXX
  2. Double Bow
  3. Guide
  4. Diamond Day
  5. Mastermind
  6. Motivator


Although most of these artists are not household names, their contribution to art, in general, cannot be understated. Most of them have inspired generations of artists with their work. Others are still young enough to inspire more people. Let’s learn to appreciate these pioneers and brilliant minds by giving them their deserved credit.

Author’s Bio: Elizabeth Shirley works at DoMyEssay and holds expertise in writing papers and essays for college students. She is an ardent art lover and likes to explore different genres and artists from all around the world. She likes to draw and teaches an art class at a local school.


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