Monochrome Artists You Should Know

The world is now so saturated by digital colour, on TVs, phones and adverts, that arguably we no longer fully appreciate the subtlety of colour in art, nor rely upon it to introduce us to vivid pigments or exotic tones that are rarely seen in the natural world. As 21st century beings we’re gradually being desensitised to colour by technology.

Artists purposefully choosing to use black and white medium over colour, however, is by no means a new thing. ‘Grisaille’, a form of monochrome painting executed entirely in greyscale, and often used in spaces instead of sculpture, dates back to medieval devotional works when it was thought that the absence of colour would avert the mind from unsavoury distractions. Eliminating colour has historically been a way to flaunt artistic skill and broaden the viewers perception of light and shade.

Take a glance at ten of our favourite artists, old and new, who have each worked in monochrome.

  1. Oil Installation by Richard Wilson, exhibited at Saatchi Gallery, 2016. Medium: sump oil and steel

Richard Wilson - Saatchi Gallery


  1. The Maids of Honour (Las Meninas, after Velázquez) by Pablo Picasso, exhibited in Museo Picasso, Barcelona. Medium: oil on canvas.

The Maids of Honour by Pablo Picasso


  1. True belief belongs to the realm of real knowledge by Idris Khan, exhibited in the Whitworth, Manchester, 2016. Medium: wall drawing, oil relief ink on gesso.

Idris Khan, The Whitworth Manchester


4. White Infinity Nets by Yayoi Kusama, exhibited at Victoria Miro Gallery, London, 2016. Medium: acrylic on canvas.

White Infinity Nets by Yayoi Kusama


5. Black Square by Kasimir Malevich (1915), currently exhibited in Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Medium: oil on canvas.

Black Square by Kazimir Malevich


  1. Odalisque en Grisaille by Jean August Dominique Ingres. Medium: oil on canvas. The piece is an unfinished repetition of the Grand Odalisque.

Odalisque en Grisaille by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres


7. Fall by Bridget Riley (1963). Medium: Polyvinyl acetate paint on hardboard


8. The Image as Burden by Marlene Dumas, exhibited in The National Gallery, London. Medium: ink wash drawing.

The Image as Burden by Marlene Dumas