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The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece  

Michael Gibson
6.2k votes 950 voters 113.2k views 50 items

The greatest artists with only one masterpiece include authors, actors and actresses, directors, painters and musicians. Each person included on this list managed to have incredible impact with one truly memorable piece of work, whether it's an album, a song, a painting or a novel. This list of the greatest artists with only a single, amazing and memorable piece of work, is VoteRanked, meaning the rank is determined by the community. Be sure to vote for those artists you believe contributed the most and feel free to add anyone else you think should be included.

This list of so-called "one hit wonders" includes several authors. Harper Lee certainly deserves a spot. Her novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird' won the Pulitzer Price in 1960, and it remains her only published work. I've included both Sylvia Plath ('The Bell Jar') and John Kennedy Toole ('A Confederacy of Dunces') on the list, although in both cases, these writers' memorable masterpieces were published either shortly before, or just after, their deaths (both Plath and Toole committed suicide). And of course, Margaret Mitchell earns a spot on this list: 'Gone With the Wind' was her only novel.

Directors and actors are also included on this list. None, perhaps, are more infamous for only creating one truly memorable piece of work than director Charles Laughton. In 1955, Laughton directed 'The Night of the Hunter' -- a film that's considered by some to be one of the best from that decade. Sadly, Laughton never directed another movie. Actors and actresses on this list include Brandon Lee ('The Crow'), Linda Blair ('The Exorcist'), Kate Hudson ('Almost Famous') and David Naughton ('An American Werewolf in London'). Disagree with the choices? Vote them down. And definitely add any Hollywood greats I've missed along the way.

Musicians who've released only one memorable album or song also got spots on this list, though they are rare. Examples? The Sex Pistols! The band only released one studio album: 1977's 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.' Everything else is a compilation and/or a live release. Jeff Buckley, sadly, also only released one (truly amazing) complete studio album: 'Grace,' in 1994.

American painter Grant Wood also makes this list of the greatest artists with only one masterpiece. His painting 'American Gothic' is without question his greatest (and most memorable) piece, though he did paint other, much lesser known paintings during his career. If you know of other artists who should be included on this list, by all means, add them.

Enjoy this list of artists who've created some of the biggest, most memorable pieces of work in history, and again, add anyone you think was overlooked.
list ordered by
1
Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
age 92
Great Work: To Kill a Mockingbird Nelle Harper Lee is an American novelist widely known for her 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird which deals with the racism she observed as a child in her hometown of ...more
2
Miguel de Cervantes is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
Dec. at 69 (1547-1616)
Great Work: Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, often known mononymously as Cervantes, was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. His magnum opus, Don Quixote, considered to be the first modern European novel, ...more
3
Margaret Mitchell is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
Dec. at 49 (1900-1949)
Great Work: Gone With the Wind Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was an American author and journalist. One novel by Mitchell was published during her lifetime, the American Civil War-era novel, Gone with the Wind, for which she ...more
4
Dante Alighieri is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
Dec. at 56 (1265-1321)
Great Work: The Divine Comedy Durante degli Alighieri, simply called Dante, was a major Italian poet of the late Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy, originally called Comedìa and later called Divina by Boccaccio, is ...more
5
Bram Stoker is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
2probb added Dec. at 65 (1847-1912)
One great work: the novel Dracula Abraham "Bram" Stoker was an Irish author known today for his 1897 Gothic novel, Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and ...more
6
Emily Brontë is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
Dec. at 30 (1818-1848)
Great Work: Wuthering Heights Emily Jane Brontë was an English novelist and poet who is best known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, now considered a classic of English literature. Emily was the third eldest of the ...more
7
J. D. Salinger is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
EEE1 added Dec. at 91 (1919-2010)
Catcher in the Rye Jerome David "J. D." Salinger was an American writer who won acclaim early in life. He led a very private life for more than a half-century. He published his final original work in ...more
8
Charlotte Brontë is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
TaraWickstrom added Dec. at 39 (1816-1855)
Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood and whose novels have become classics of English literature. She ...more
9
Ranker Video
Great Work: "A Whiter Shade of Pale" Procol Harum are an English rock band formed in 1967. They contributed to the development of progressive rock, and by extension, symphonic rock. Their best-known recording is their 1967 hit ...more
10
Ken Kesey is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
analise.dubner added Dec. at 66 (1935-2001)
Great Work: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Kenneth Elton "Ken" Kesey was an American author, best known for his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and as a countercultural figure who considered himself a link between the ...more
11
Ranker Video
Died at 57 (1879-1936)
Great Work: Nosferatu Friedrich Gustav Maximilian "Max" Schreck was a German actor. He is most often remembered for his lead role as Count Orlok in the film Nosferatu.
12
F. Scott Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
KirkSaw added Dec. at 44 (1896-1940)
Great Work: The Great Gatsby Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are the paradigmatic writings of the Jazz Age. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American ...more
13
Linda Blair is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
age 60
Great Work: The Exorcist Linda Denise Blair is an American actress. Blair is best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in the film The Exorcist, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award and won a ...more
14
William Golding is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
Skojare added Dec. at 82 (1911-1993)
Great Work: Lord of the Flies
Sir William Gerald Golding CBE was an English novelist, playwright, and poet. Best known for his novel Lord of the Flies, he won a Nobel Prize in Literature, and was also awarded the Booker ...more
15
Ralph Ellison is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
Dec. at 81 (1913-1994)
Great Work: Invisible Man Ralph Waldo Ellison was an American novelist, literary critic, scholar and writer. He was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Ellison is best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the ...more
16
Ranker Video
Dec. at 53 (1653-1706)
Great Work: Canon in D Johann Pachelbel was a German composer, organist and teacher who brought the south German organ tradition to its peak. He composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his contributions ...more
17
Edmond Rostand is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
Dec. at 50 (1868-1918)
Great Work: Cyrano de Bergerac Edmond Eugène Alexis Rostand was a French poet and dramatist. He is associated with neo-romanticism, and is best known for his play Cyrano de Bergerac. Rostand's romantic plays contrasted ...more
18
Ranker Video
Dec. at 28 (1965-1993)
Great Work: The Crow Brandon Bruce Lee was an American actor and martial artist. He was the son of martial arts film actor Bruce Lee, the grandson of Cantonese opera singer Lee Hoi-chuen, and brother of Shannon Lee. ...more
19
Grant Wood is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
Dec. at 51 (1891-1942)
Great Work: American Gothic Grant DeVolson Wood was an American painter born four miles east of Anamosa, Iowa. He is best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest, particularly the painting American ...more
20
Sylvia Plath is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
Dec. at 31 (1932-1963)
Great Work: The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short-story writer. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College at the University of Cambridge, before ...more
21
Ranker Video
Dec. at 31 (1966-1997)
Great Work: Grace Jeffrey Scott "Jeff" Buckley, raised as Scott "Scottie" Moorhead, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. After a decade as a session guitarist in Los Angeles, ...more
22
Ranker Video
Dec. at 71 (1910-1981)
Great Work: Adagio for Strings Samuel Osmond Barber II was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. He is one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century: music critic Donal Henahan stated ...more
23
Ranker Video
Great Work: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock band formed in London in 1975. Although they lasted just two-and-a-half years and produced only four singles and one studio album, Never Mind the ...more
24
Ranker Video
Died at 54 (1892-1946)
Great Work: The Passion of Joan of Arc Renée Jeanne Falconetti, sometimes credited as Maria Falconetti, Marie Falconetti, Renée Maria Falconetti, or, simply, Falconetti, was a French stage and film actress, notable for ...more
25
Stieg Larsson is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
Dec. at 50 (1954-2004)
Great Work: The Millennium Series Karl Stig-Erland "Stieg" Larsson was a Swedish journalist and writer. He is best known for writing the "Millennium trilogy" of crime novels, which were published ...more