40+ All Time Classic Portraits of Iconic People
Today we bring you a great collection of portraits of the most iconic people throughout history. Portraits explore the relationship between the subject and the photographer or artist and usually continue to impress the viewer years after they have been created. The common thread running through all of these portraits is superlative design. Each is a masterpiece in its own right, from the medieval painted portraits right up to the most current photographs. We hope that this collection inspires you, makes you gasp and even smile. We want you to come away with a sense of what made each portrait unique and memorable, and incorporate these concepts into your own portraits.
Picasso was one of the pre-eminent artists of the 20th century and a major proponent of the Cubist movement. While being shot for this portrait, Picasso could view himself in the wide angle lens of the camera and instinctively moved to place himself where he needed to be for the shot. Date: 1954. Photographer: Yousuf Karsh.
Sir Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton is considered, amongst other things, to be one of the fathers of modern science. Universal gravitation and the three laws of motion are just two of his many theories. He also invented the first reflecting telescope. Date: 15th/16th Century. Artist: Sir Godfrey Kneller.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart composed over 600 works of music, including “The Magic Flute”. He began composing at the age of five. Date: 1819. Artist: Barbara Krafft.
No collection of portraits would be complete without this one. There is little to be said about this painting that hasn’t been said already, so we’ll direct you to Wikipedia if you want to know more. Date: 1503-1506. Artist: Leonardo da Vinci.
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States and was responsible for abolishing slavery in the United States through the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. He also held the dubious honour of being the first president to be assassinated.This photo was taken by one of Lincoln’s best-known photographers, Alexander Gardner. Date: Nov. 8 1863. Photographer: Alexander Gardner.
John F. Kennedy
The 35th President of the United States. JFK presided over the Cuban Missile Crisis and established NASA to put America on the moon. His assassination was controversial and untimely. Date: 1961. Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Jordan is known as one of the best defensive players in basketball. He helped to popularize the NBA through the 1980’s and 1990’s through his participation in various marketing campaigns both for the NBA and for various corporations. Date: 2006. Photographer: Joshua Massel
Micheal Jackson is just as famous for his many commercial musical successes as he is for his odd and outlandish lifestyle. Date: 1992. Photographer: Unknown
Henry VIII was one of the most infamous kings in English history. He formed what is now known as the Anglican church in order to divorce his first wife when the Pope would not grant him a dispensation to do so. He also fostered humanist learning and was key in getting the Royal Navy off to a good start with great investments in shipbuilding. Hans Holbein The Younger was a court painter to Henry VIII and was not only responsible for portraits of Henry VIII, but most of his wives as well. Many portraits were painted of Henry VIII based on Holbein’s portraits, and some are mistakenly attributed to him. Date: 1536. Artist: Hans Holbein The Younger.
Widely considered to be the best electric guitarist in history, Hendrix is known for “Are You Experienced”, his rendition of “All Along the Watchtower” by Dylan, and his version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, along with many others. Hendrix was also one of the first artists to add effects to his music in the studio. Date: Unknown. Photographer: Unknown
Ernesto “Che” Guevara Havannassa at the La Coubre Memorial Service in 1960. Che traveled around Latin America as a young medical student and came to the conclusion that the only solution for the poverty that he saw was world revolution. He was instrumental in Castro’s takeover of Cuba and was later assassinated by Bolivian forces who were assisted by the CIA. Date: 1960. Photographer: Alberto Korda.
Queen of the pin-ups, mostly due to this 1942 portrait. Grable’s legs were insured by her studio for a million dollars with Lloyd’s of London. Date: 1942. Photographer: 20th Century Fox.
The founder of Microsoft and a primary benefactor of the largest charitable foundation in the world, Bill Gates was one of the first tech visionaries. Date and photographer: Unknown
Gandhi was responsible for getting the British to allow India to form its own government through his technique of satyagraha, or non-violence. Date: 1930’s. Photographer: Unknown.
The father of modern observational astronomy, Galileo invented improvements to the telescope and supported the theory put forward by Copernicus that the Earth orbited the Sun, and not the other way around. He was also a pioneer in the field of physics. Galileo spent the latter part of his life under house arrest for heresy against the Catholic Church. Date:1605. Artist: Domenico Robusti.
Farrah Fawcett became famous through a combination of the hit 70’s series “Charlie’s Angels” and this photograph which was popularized as a poster. Date: 1976. Photographer: Bruce McBroom.
Einstein is another father of modern science. While his most famous theory is his theory of relativity, he put forward a number of new theories that formed the foundation of modern physics and paved the way for the Atomic Age. Date: 1947. Photographer: Oren Jack Turner. Second photo: Date: 1951. Photographer: Arthur Sasse.
This photo of a young Edison was taken with the phonograph that he invented. He was most famous for inventing a long-lasting, practical lightbulb. Date: 1877-1878. Photographer: Levin C. Handy.
Princess Diana married Prince Charles and found herself divorced from him just a few years afterwards due to his persistent philandering with his current wife, Camilla Parker Bowles. Tireless in her humanitarian efforts, Diana continued to win the hearts of the British people and indeed people all over the world up until her death. Patrick Demarchelier was Princess Diana’s favourite photographer. This image he took of her was featured on the cover of People magazine after her death in 1997 and it instantly became iconic. Date: 1990. Photographer: Patrick Dermarchelier.
Leonardo Da Vinci
Da Vinci defined the “Renaissance Man” with his inventions, art and scientific theories. This self-portrait of the famous artist and inventor was composed in red chalk. Date: 1512-1515. Artist: Leonardo da Vinci.
A Genoese navigator, colonizer and explorer whose voyages across the Atlantic Ocean—funded by Queen Isabella of Spain—led to general European awareness of the American continents in the Western Hemisphere.
An American musician, best known as the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of grunge band Nirvana. On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle, the victim of what was officially ruled a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. The circumstances of his death have become a topic of fascination and debate. Date: Unknown. Photographer: Mark Seliger.
This 1940 painting has been reproduced over 500 million times, making it one of the most popular works of art in history. Date: 1940. Artist: Warner Sallman.
This powerful actor not only helped to found United Artists, but set the stage for what most of us consider “comedy” to be today. Date: 1915. Photographer: Studio Photographer, Chaplin as “The Tramp”.
Napoleon arranged a coup d’etat which brought him to power in 1799. Five years after that he crowned himself as Emperor of France. He led successful military campaigns in Italy and Egypt that bolstered his reputation. His Napoleonic Code is still being used as a basis for law in many countries. Date: 1802. Painter: Antoine-Jean Gros.
Alexander Graham Bell
An eminent scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with inventing the first practical telephone. Date: 1904. Photographer: Unknown – Print from Library of Congress.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. He was a crucial figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western classical music, and remains one of the most acclaimed and influential of all composers. Date: 1820. Painter: Joseph Karl Stiele.
Ali was a three-time heavyweight World Champion in boxing. Born Cassius Clay, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam. Date: 1967. Photographer: Ira Rosenberg.
At the time of her death in 1997, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity organization was running 610 missions in 123 countries. Date: 1986. Photographer: Túrelio.
Washington was the first President of the United States. Prior to that, he led key battles as a general for the rebellion that ousted the British from American soil. Date: Unknown. Artists: Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828), Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860).
Born as Malcolm Little, he changed his surname to “X” when he joined the Nation of Islam, a common practice among members. He fought for civil rights, sometimes using violent methods to do so. He denounced leaders of the civil rights movement as being “stooges” for the establishment. Date: 1964. Photographer: Marion S. Trikosko.
Portrait or not? Many interpretations of this work by Edvard Munch see the central figure as the artist trying to block out the outside world, or the “Scream” of nature, as the artist entitled the work in German (Der Schrei der Natur). One thing is for sure – it had insurance companies screaming after it was stolen twice. Date: 1893. Artist: Edvard Munch.
Elvis Presley popularized a more sexually charged style of music called “Rock and Roll” that was the delight of younger people of his generation and the bane of parents who credited his style of music with demoralizing a generation.
Plato & Artistotle
This commonly cropped part of The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio features the two famous philosophers, presumably arguing about philosophy. Aristotle was Plato’s student. Date: 1509. Artist: Raffaello Sanzio.
Marilyn Monroe was a screen actress who died under mysterious circumstances that were officially ruled as a suicide. Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful actresses ever, Monroe was married to a few husbands, including baseball player Joe DiMaggio, and is widely rumoured to have had an affair with JFK during his presidency.This was a scene from the movie “The Seven Year Itch”. The location shot in front of the Trans-Lux theatre in New York City had to be redone in the studio due to excessive crowd noise, but it yielded this picture. Date: 1954. Photographer: Matty Zimmerman.
Bob Marley and the Wailers are the best known performers of reggae music. Marley was also a key proponent of the Rastafarian movement, bringing it into popular culture. Date and photographer: Unknown.
Nelson Mandela was elected the first African President of South Africa in 1994, officially ending a long tradition of apartheid in South Africa. Mandela had been jailed for speaking out against apartheid until it was abolished in 1990. Date: 1994Photographer: African National Congress.
Scenes involving Bruce Lee’s fists and legs actually had to be slowed down through the process of shooting the film at a higher framerate in order for audiences to be able to watch him fight in some of his movies. Lee was an icon of the Chinese martial arts, particularly Kung Fu and Wing Chun. Date: Unknown. Artist: Columbia Pictures.
A Golden Globe and Grammy Award winning English singer, songwriter and occasional actor, best known for his work as lead vocalist of The Rolling Stones. Date and photographer: Unknown
Hitler gained absolute political power in Germany through an election and subsequent political and military manoeuvres that established him as the Fuhrer of Germany. His vision of a unified Germany appealed to the wider German electorate, but the darker side of Hitler’s views and the subsequent World War II brought about a decimated Germany and his own downfall. Date: Around 1932. Photographer: Unknown
Dame Elizabeth Taylor
Taylor’s famous violet eyes are hard to miss in this photo. She was the first actress to be paid $1 Million for her title role in the movie “Cleopatra”. Since retiring from her film career, Taylor has worked to further humanitarian causes, most notably being an AIDS advocate at a time when many other celebrities shied away from the cause. Date: 1951. Photographer: Unknown
Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh is responsible for creating some of the most famous works of art, including “Starry Night”. Van Gogh also created many self-portraits throughout his lifetime. One of his other self-portraits, Self-portrait without beard, sold for $71.5 million. Date: September 1889. Artist: Vincent Van Gogh.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah
Mohammad Ali Jinnah (December 25, 1876 – September 11, 1948) was a 20th century lawyer, politician, statesman and the founder of Pakistan. He is popularly and officially known in Pakistan as Quaid-e-Azam. Jinnah, advocating the Two-Nation Theory, embraced the goal of creating a separate state for Muslims as per the Lahore Resolution.
Sir Lord Khalid Janjua
soon to be famous and one more thing not yet titled or knight