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The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece

Updated October 2, 2019 7.1k votes 967 voters 113.8k views50 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.
  • 1
    J. D. Salinger is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
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    J. D. Salinger

    Dec. at 91 (1919-2010)

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    Catcher in the Rye

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  • 2
    Linda Blair is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
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    BirthplaceSt. Louis, Missouri, United States of America

    Great Work: The Exorcist

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  • 3
    Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
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    Harper Lee

    Age: 94

    BirthplaceMonroeville, Alabama

    Great Work: To Kill a Mockingbird
  • 4
    Miguel de Cervantes is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    125
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    Miguel de Cervantes

    Dec. at 69 (1547-1616)

    BirthplaceAlcalá de Henares, Spain

    Great Work: Don Quixote
  • 5
    Margaret Mitchell is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
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    Margaret Mitchell

    Dec. at 49 (1900-1949)

    BirthplaceAtlanta, Georgia

    Great Work: Gone With the Wind
  • 6
    Bram Stoker is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
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    18

    Bram Stoker

    Dec. at 65 (1847-1912)

    BirthplaceClontarf, Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

    One great work: the novel Dracula
  • 7
    Dante Alighieri is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    74
    34

    Dante Alighieri

    Dec. at 56 (1265-1321)

    BirthplaceFlorence, Italy

    Great Work: The Divine Comedy

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  • 8
    Emily Brontë is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
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    Emily Brontë

    Dec. at 30 (1818-1848)

    BirthplaceThornton, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom

    Great Work: Wuthering Heights

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  • 9
    Ralph Ellison is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
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    110

    Ralph Ellison

    Dec. at 81 (1913-1994)

    BirthplaceOklahoma City, Oklahoma

    Great Work: Invisible Man

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  • 10
    Johann Pachelbel is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    153
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    Johann Pachelbel

    Dec. at 53 (1653-1706)

    BirthplaceNuremberg, Germany

    Great Work: Canon in D
  • 11
    Charlotte Brontë is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    59
    39

    Charlotte Brontë

    Dec. at 39 (1816-1855)

    BirthplaceThornton, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom

    Jane Eyre
  • 12
    Edmond Rostand is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    116
    101

    Edmond Rostand

    Dec. at 50 (1868-1918)

    BirthplaceMarseille, France

    Great Work: Cyrano de Bergerac
  • 13
    Procol Harum is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    Great Work: "A Whiter Shade of Pale"

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  • 14
    Ken Kesey is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    65
    47

    Ken Kesey

    Dec. at 66 (1935-2001)

    BirthplaceLa Junta, Colorado, United States of America

    Great Work: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
  • 15
    William Golding is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    43
    30

    William Golding

    Dec. at 82 (1911-1993)

    BirthplaceSt Columb Minor, United Kingdom

    Great Work: Lord of the Flies
  • 16
    Samuel Barber is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    108
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    Samuel Barber

    Dec. at 71 (1910-1981)

    BirthplaceWest Chester, Pennsylvania

    Great Work: Adagio for Strings

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  • 17
    Vincent Gallo is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    48
    40

    BirthplaceBuffalo, New York, United States of America

    Great Work: Buffalo 66

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  • 18
    Sylvia Plath is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    51
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    Sylvia Plath

    Dec. at 31 (1932-1963)

    BirthplaceJamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts

    Great Work: The Bell Jar
  • 19
    Renée Jeanne Falconetti is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    83
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    Renée Jeanne Falconetti

    Dec. at 54 (1892-1946)

    BirthplacePantin, France

    Great Work: The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • 20
    Lauryn Hill is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    36
    32

    BirthplaceEast Orange, New Jersey, United States of America

    The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

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  • 21
    Grant Wood is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    33
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    Grant Wood

    Dec. at 51 (1891-1942)

    BirthplaceAnamosa, Iowa

    Great Work: American Gothic
  • 22
    Stieg Larsson is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    33
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    Stieg Larsson

    Dec. at 50 (1954-2004)

    BirthplaceSkelleftehamn, Sweden

    Great Work: The Millennium Series
  • 23
    Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    Great Work: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols

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  • 24
    John Kennedy Toole is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    101
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    John Kennedy Toole

    Dec. at 32 (1937-1969)

    BirthplaceNew Orleans, Louisiana

    Great Work: A Confederacy of Dunces
  • 25
    Meat Loaf is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece
    10
    5

    Meat Loaf

    Age: 73

    BirthplaceTexas, USA, Dallas

    Michael Lee Aday (born Marvin Lee Aday; September 27, 1947), known professionally as Meat... more on Wikipedia

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