The Most Famous Mosaic Artists
Artists have been making mosaics for centuries, but, unfortunately for us, it wasn’t until the Renaissance that artists in any field begin to be recognized for their work. During this same period, mosaics fell out of fashion and didn’t see a revival until the 19th century. This means most of the most famous mosaic artists are from modern times.
Born in 1953, Sonia King is an active mosaic artist, creating work for art galleries as well as for homes and other buildings. She has exhibited her work around the world, and her mosaic “Depthfinder” will remain in the permanent collection in Museo d’Arte della Città di Ravenna in Italy. She is the first American to receive this honor. Her work is made from a variety of materials, including stone, tile, gemstones, and minerals.
For a more unusual choice of material, you have Maurice Bennett. The New Zealander was famous for using toast to create his artwork — he would burn the bread in different places to create the pixel he wanted. To preserve the toast, Bennett soaked each piece in polyurethane. This way, he was able to display mosaics spanning as large as 7.2 meters by 4.8 meters.
Bennett’s mosaics tend to feature portraits of famous people, including Barack Obama. He also made a mosaic recreation of the Mona Lisa. In addition to being stunning, the art is highly unique — so much so, in fact, that it was featured on Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Active during the Art Noveau movement, Antoni Gaudí used a striking combination of modernism and mixed media in his mosaics. His style is highly unique and distinct, featuring themes that matter most to him: nature, religion, and architecture. His method was to create his work in three-dimensional models, adding details as he went, rather than planning his art beforehand.
The Catalan architect and artist has had a number of his pieces named as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The most well-known of these is his Parque Güell. It features gardens and architecture with murals and other mosaics throughout.
UK artist Peter Mason creates pop art mosaics with a twist — they are made entirely from postage stamps. The result is pixelated, subdued images. His influences of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol are obvious, especially in his portrait work. However, Mason also makes mosaics of geometrical shapes and landscapes. Each of his pieces uses up to 20,000 postage stamps and can take eight weeks to finish.
Isaiah Zagar brings mosaics to the streets, building murals around his hometown of Philadelphia. Most of his more than 200 mosaics are on or around South Street, some of which are three dimensional. He uses a variety of materials, including city trash like bottles, bike wheels, and found objects.
For seven months of the year, Zagar holds a workshop every last weekend of the month where participants can join him in creating a new mural. All of the mosaics have a personal meaning to Zagar, which is clear from the quotes, poetry, and names of inspirational artists that he incorporates into his art.
Emma Biggs creates beautiful contemporary mosaics for public places as well as homes and commercial settings. Many of her pieces are made from ceramics, not least because of her interest in the history of the ceramic industry and its social significance. The London-based artist has also authored several books on mosaics.
Not all mosaicists start out by producing their own artwork. Albanian artist Saimir Strati is a prime example of this — he began restoring mosaics in archeological zones like Byllis, Amantia, and Apollonia.
His experience in restoration led Strati down the path to create his own massive mosaics, although he chooses to do so with unusual materials like nails, toothpicks, corks, and coffee beans. His world record attempts to create the largest mosaics from these materials have all been live performances. For his work, he received the Honor of the Nation from the president of Albania in 2009.
Jim Bachor applies his knowledge of ancient mosaic techniques to contemporary pieces. Starting in 2013, he began to use his professional training in setting marble and glass in mortar to fill highway potholes with mosaics. He creates images like foods, flowers, and vermin. You can see his work across the U.S. in cities including Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia as well as in Jyväskylä, Finland.
Elaine M. Goodwin
Elaine M. Goodwin has played an important role in mosaics in the UK. In 1999, she became president of the newly founded British Association for Modern Mosaics (BAMM), formed with the intent to promote the mosaic art form. In addition, she joined other artists to create Tessellated Expression for the 21st Century (more commonly known as TE-21), a group of mosaicists who exhibit their work together internationally.
Goodwin’s style is abstract and she often uses materials that reflect light, like gold, smalti, and marble. This gives her mosaics another dimension and makes her work instantly recognizable to those who know her.
Emma Karp Lundström
Eclectic Swedish mosaic artist, Emma Karp Lundström creates mosaics entirely of apples. In each mosaic, she uses 12 to 13 different varieties of apples for a range of shapes and colors. She assembles between 30,000 and 75,000 apples (depending on the mural) to create a billboard-size piece of art in Kivik Harbor every year. This commemorates the opening of the apple market in the fall. Each time, the apples create a new image.
Muralist and mosaic artist Laurel True is the founder of Mosaic Art, one of the first formal institutes dedicated to mosaics in the U.S. She makes her art from ceramic, glass, and mirror but also incorporates salvaged building materials. Over her 25 years specializing in mosaics, she has worked on more than 100 projects, many of which are available to view in public spaces across the world. You can find her art across Europe, Africa, and Latin America.
True often collaborates with others to create art. Frequently, she involves local communities to create street art that will reflect the culture, history, and social issues of the area. In addition, she holds intensive courses for mosaic enthusiasts, where she shares her skills and passion.
There is one exception to the rule that famous mosaic artists tend to be from the modern era: Pietro Cavallini. Born in 1250, probably in Rome, Italy, Cavallini was active during the Middle Ages. Although few details about his personal life are known, many of his paintings and mosaics are well preserved.
All of Cavallini’s works use religious themes. One of the most impressive is Scenes from the Life of Mary, a mosaic in six scenes at the apse of the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. The mosaic is valued for its realism and perspective. Also attributed to Cavallini is the apse mosaic in San Crisogono church, again in Trastevere.
One of the best ways to appreciate mosaics is to explore the works of famous artists whose work you feel a connection with. This is a great way to find inspiration for your own art and to put you on the right track to developing your personal style.