Not everyone becomes an artist, but we all have the potential to appreciate good art. Whether one is passionate about modern art or wonder why in the world anyone would paint a soup can, everyone has an art period that emotionally moves or strikes them.
Post-impressionism. Renaissance. Greco-Roman. Abstract expressionism. Once you find what speaks to your soul, you'll find that a good art exhibit can inspire and heal your heart all at once.
What you name your baby is a personal process, and the name you decide on needs personal significance. Because art is so tied up in personal emotions and evoking awe and purpose into the beholder, art and artists are popular inspirations for baby names. Yet before you go rooting through a list of the All-Time Top 100 Painters, hang on: between all the Manets, Goyas, and Delacroix's, you may feel like your search is coming up empty.
This article carefully researches and selects 19 art history-inspired baby names to present artistic names that are both historically significant but fitting for a baby born in the twenty-first century. From Auguste to Vincent, you may find the muse for your baby's name you never knew you were seeking. Who knows? Maybe your child will grow up to become the next Da Vinci.
Inspired by the nineteenth-century sculptor Auguste Rodin, you may recognize his passionate piece "The Kiss," or his more contemplative "The Thinker." Rodin put great passion into his art and is considered the "Father of Modern Sculpture." Artistic trailblazers are excellent role models for your baby as they learn to value expression and creativity in their own lives.
Auguste is a Latin-derived name that means "great," or "greatness." If you name your child Auguste, you can use it as a chance to reflect on what greatness means. It's common for people to associate greatness with measurable success, like reaching athletic achievement or earning a job that offers social recognition.
Yet, in the example of Rodin, greatness can be found in something as simple as another person's eyes or the view you see on a relaxing walk. Auguste is a great reminder that beautiful things are everywhere, if we only look for them.
Georgia O'Keefe was an American artist perhaps best known for her flower paintings and New Mexico landscape portraits. Rarely do we appreciate the natural beauty all around us, but O'Keefe's enlarged paintings of flower petals and close observations of blossoms remind us to cherish the simplest wonders in life because they are often the greatest we will see.
She believed that art is all around, but that few truly appreciated or took enough time to see this: "Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time - we haven't time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time."
Naming your baby after Georgia O'Keefe could be ideal if you want to raise your child with the belief that even the smallest things matters. Her namesake will help her remember that every moment of her life can hold great joy if she has gratitude for the little things. If O'Keefe was right, and we as a society forget to take time and observe beauty, perhaps this name will be a blessing.
Viewing a Norman Rockwell painting is often described as coming home after a long time away, with family and friends welcoming you back with arms open. If you live in America, you likely recognize some Rockwell paintings without necessarily knowing who the artist is. His art is as iconic in portraying twentieth-century American life as Roy Lichtenstein's artwork is for pop art.
Norman is an old name, Ancient Germanic in origin and referring to a "northman," or a Viking. If you have early English or Germanic roots, you might find the name Norman fitting on multiple levels. Try flipping through some American art books to get a sense of whether Rockwell is the right person to name your baby after. If not, no harm done and you had the chance to kick back and appreciate his art.
Pablo Picasso may have become one of the most recognizable artists in the past one hundred years, but they say he never lost his childlike appreciation for beauty. Who are "they?" None other than himself, of course! Picasso once said of his artistic training, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
Pablo is a perfect name if you want your child to never lose that sparkle in their eyes as they take in the world around them, whether they're two or twenty. A Spanish name meaning "small," your Pablo will never forget that compared to him, the universe is vast and beautiful, and he'll consider himself lucky to inhabit it.
On the other hand, Picasso is quite the shadow to stand under. You may want to use this as a middle name if you worry about your child trying to live up to the cubist master. He might just take it up as a challenge, though, and live his life to the fullest! You never know what people will accomplish, given ambition and inspiration.
Let's face it: Michelangelo might be a little too heavy of a name for your boy. While the Italian Renaissance is one of the greats (and, some would argue, the greatest), you may not want to name your baby after him. Michelangelo may be a little too fiery or temperamental for your baby's namesake, or you might worry people will mistake him for a member of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Whatever your reason, David is a great compromise if you still want to honor Michelangelo Buonarroti. You don't need to consider yourself cultured to recognize his statue of David. All you need is to have not lived under a rock for, well, your entire life. The David is graceful, and its history is enough to inspire and captivate your child.
David is a name with Hebrew origins, and it means "beloved." Children who grow up knowing they are loved thrive, and no baby can forget how much you care about them when their name reflects that unconditional devotion.
Though the USA is a young country, it has a good selection of artistic "greats" to name a baby after. Ansel Adams was an American photographer and environmental activist whose pieces captured the American West in brilliant black-and-white. He is best known for his photos of Yosemite National Park. If you or your family come from California, this might be the ideal name to honor your ancestors and your love of art.
Ansel is a Medieval German name which derives from the name Anselm, or "God's helmet." Whether you are religious, spiritual, or happily agnostic, you can still appreciate the historical significance of the name and think about the complex yet meaningful progression of humanity every time you call him home. When he's older and you explain the significance, he will come to appreciate it as well.
The French name Henri derives from the same place as the classic Henry, which has enjoyed a popularity rebound in recent years. Two artists share the name Henri, both of whom offering a rich and vibrant history for your baby. You can name your baby after once or both, depending on just how artsy you're feeling.
Both artists, maybe unsurprisingly, called France their home. Henri Matisse, the expressionist painter, created sweet and simplistic canvases that later inspired fauvism. Post-impressionist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, another artistic "Henri," was a contemporary of Vincent van Gogh best known for his wild, absinthe-drenched paintings of Paris's nightlife at the Moulin Rouge.
Inspired by symbolist Gustav Klimt, this name is a strong, mature name for a child with an equally sensitive heart. Klimt's artwork is vivid, with bright yellows and golds forming emotionally evocative figures. Because his pieces are so lively, their prints fit in a baby's nursery well. The perfect conversation topic for telling loved ones how you chose your baby's name!
You might know Gustav Klimt's work from the 2015 movie "The Woman in Gold," which explores the history behind one of his most iconic pieces. Perhaps this film will inspire a love of symbolist artwork and Gustav's name will fit all the more for your baby.
If you want to choose an artistic name for your baby, your best bet is to base it on art that personally moves you. Klimt is a popular choice because his artwork is accessible for a wide audience, which isn't always the case for modern art. Think about what you like in art and do a little research to find a meaningful name for your baby.
Another Ninja Turtle? While the first Raphael that comes to your mind may be a green animated amphibian, the artist Raphael was so much more than that. This name offers a name embedded in Italian history for the painter's delicate stroke and observant eye. Few names sound as beautiful as their history, but Raphael is almost an artwork all on its own. A name angelic to the tongue, Raphael is just classic enough that in a contemporary lens, it's refreshing.
The name Raphael means "God is Healer," and it comes from Hebrew origins. In a world of doers and takers, we need more healers: people who seek to help others and make the world a kinder placer rather than a greater one. With an inspiring name and a little prompting on your part, you can raise your Raphael to value compassion and beauty as much as his namesake did.
Frida Kahlo lived in a world who didn't quite accept or understand her, but she stood to her own identity. To this day, some ignorant voices may call her "strange" or "bizarre," but people like Frida Kahlo were never looking for someone else's approval. She lived for her passions, her loved ones, and herself. Nothing else mattered. Her life was not without its troubles, some of them tragic, but she left behind art that defined life as nothing else had before. Your daughter, if you choose to name her after Frida, might find her an excellent person to look up to if she moves to her own rhythm as well.
Frida once said, "I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration." Naming your child after her can help her observe the world with fresh eyes and dare to be herself even if that's not always the most comfortable thing to be. She will find it so much more worthwhile in the end, and she'll have her namesake in part to thank.
We mentioned Klimt's "The Woman in Gold" earlier, a painting as mysterious as the Mona Lisa herself but a little closer to the twentieth-century. The subject was a young Austrian socialite in the early twentieth-century who caught the eye of and got to know the symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. "The Woman in Gold" is a painting with a complicated history, and naming your child after the art's subject (Adele) may help your child remember and respect the complexities of life.
If you're looking for artsy baby names and don't find the artists themselves' names inspiring, try delving into the history of a certain painting you like. Research the subjects and the artist's inspirations. Excellent baby names can come from unexpected places, and yours might be hiding behind a portrait frame.
Artemisia Gentileschi was a Baroque painter in the seventeenth-century who overcame so much hardship to earn her place in history. Between sexist comments against her work and a too-long judicial trial after she was assaulted, she still managed to rise above her challenges and paint beautiful artwork. She is an inspiration just as much as her paintings are.
With any luck, your baby won't have to face as much emotional turmoil as Gentileschi did in her life. Nobody deserves that kind of trauma or hardships. But if your baby lives any sort of life, she will likely meet people telling her she cannot follow her passions, or she might reach obstacles along the way. With Gentileschi in mind, a girl named Artemisia can take challenges as a learning experience and become stronger because of them.
You may remember Matisse from earlier when talking about Henri. Names-turned-surnames are popular these days. Among the flood of Taylors, Quinns, and Andersons, you may find a unique and welcoming sound with Matisse. Henri Matisse was a painter who valued freedom and creative expression, and he poured his very being into his work. Passionate people get so much joy out of life, and if our names influence who we will become, this one could bring your baby so much joy.
If Henri is a little too commonplace but you're not quite sold on Matisse, remember that you could always call him "Matt" for short. Some of the best unique names offer an unassuming nickname if you feel like your baby hasn't quite grown into his full name yet. Matt is short, sweet, and a perfect nickname if your child decides to keep it into adulthood.
This potentially gender-neutral name is another artistic twist on the classic surname-turned-first name, honoring the one and only Salvador Dali. Whether you're a fan of surrealism or not, this is the perfect name for parents who want to encourage individuality in their child from a young age.
Salvador Dali was the epitome of a unique soul: besides creating bizarre-yet-fascinating art, he also liked to have a little fun messing with people. He once appeared on a game show (where nobody knew who he was), could never remember his age, and drove a car filled to the brim with cauliflower. Why? Because he was Salvador Dali, that's why. Nobody walked more to their own rhythm in life than him, and nobody is better to name your child after if you want to raise a free spirit.
If you're not crazy about using a last name as a first name, Salvador is an equally meaningful first name for your baby boy. Deriving from the Latin name Salvator, which means "Savior," this baby name is chock full of both ancient and contemporary history. Those are the best names for children ready to make their own mark on the world.
The Mona Lisa is often referred to as the "Paris Hilton" of painting because while it is famous, some art lovers wonder why. Whether or not that name is deserved, we'll leave to your judgment. But who hasn't wondered what lies behind the Mona Lisa's smile, or what secret's her playful-yet-guarded eyes hold? Regardless of whether her fame is justified, her mystery preserves it and perpetuates her fame. If she didn't earn it to begin with, she certainly has by now. Naming your daughter Mona can shroud her in the same sense of mystique with a timely history.
Mona is an Italian name short for Simone, meaning "noble" or "good." Some parents name their child as a value they admire: you may know a couple of Charitys, Justices, or Hopes yourself. Mona offers an identical sentiment without making the meaning so overt.
Claude Monet's impressionistic paintings are equally as fitting for a nursery as the earlier-mentioned Klimt: his sunrises and water lily studies bring a peaceful yet thought-provoking atmosphere to an otherwise simplistic baby room. Monet believed in capturing moments through his art. As your baby grows, you'll want to preserve his milestones with just as equal a fever as Monet sketched the light he observed.
Claude is a French baby name that comes from the Roman surname Claudius. It is thought to have referred to the original Claudius's physical characteristics, which may have been lame or disabled in some way. Roman surnames, much like contemporary surnames, often portrayed a job or physical attribute (think Smith or Brown). In that way, this name is not too far removed from the present!
Looking for an artist's works who are as volatile or explosive as the abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock is no easy task. In fact, no matter how hard you try, you might find such a search comes up empty-handed! No matter how you feel about Pollock, his art was one of a kind. Nobody ever was like him, and perhaps nobody ever will be. Your baby will likely be a unique soul in his own way, too, which makes Jackson a respectful nod to the passionate, free-thinking Jackson Pollock.
The name Jackson was once another surname freed from its boundaries as a last name. Now, it is commonly used as a first name for young boys and occasionally girls. If you're looking for a name that doesn't stick too far out but still conveys a wonderfully artistic feeling, Jackson may be the ideal choice.
Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn is remembered and valued for his Biblical pieces as well as his contemporary scenes of life in sixteenth-century Holland. His artwork best characterizes the Dutch Baroque movement which emphasized heavy realism and warm, emotional pieces. Any art aficionado would do well to name their child after Rembrandt; it is a strong, yet sensitive name.
If Rembrandt is a bit too heavy of a name for your three year old, you might enjoy the nickname "Brandt." Sometimes children take time to grow into a more mature name, and this offers a good transition if they need it. Should they choose to keep the nickname as an adult, Brandt works as well for a fifty year old as a five year old. But if they want to use their full name, they have one steeped in history.
In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent van Gogh once wrote, "Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well."
Van Gogh was a compassionate soul, and everything he did was in pursuit of great meaning. Naming your child Vincent in respect to the wonderstruck post-impressionist painter is a way to foster that unconditional love and courage in adversity that the artist himself possessed. Van Gogh didn't have an easy life, but neither does anyone. Your child can look up to his namesake and remember that through small actions, good things are accomplished.
The name Vincent means "conquering," from the Latin name Vincentius, and it was a name borne by many who accomplished much despite personal challenges. It is a perfect reminder of the balance between hardship and happiness we all have in life, and how much we can learn from our struggles.
Site: HuffingtonPost.com, Musee-Rodin.org, MetMuseum.org, Tate.org