You could make anywhere from $0 to $1,000,000-plus a year. Needless to say, the salary range is varied. Unfortunately, your estate or a private collector could make more than you could ever in your lifetime. For instance, Paul Cezanne’s The Card Players is the most expensive painting ever sold. Qatar, a tiny Middle Eastern country, bought this lovely painting for $250 million in 2011. Okay, so what about living painters?
Painters such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Sierra, Georg Baselitz, Richard Prince, and David Hockney do pretty well. It has probably been years since they've touched a Subway sandwich. In fact, Andre Vicari was named the richest painter in England in 2004. His estimated worth was over $142 million. Likewise, Jasper Johns sold his painting False Start for $80 million, making him worth over $300 million. Who wins the richest living painter artist award? Damien Hirst, at an estimated worth of over $1 billion.
Before the dollar signs start bouncing in your eyes, we must tell you that most painters do not make that much money. In fact, artists as a whole earn $6,000 less than "professional" workers, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. Painters make an average annual wage of $53,400 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). While an artist may accrue $53,400 a year, they still have to take out money for taxes. If they want to see a doctor, they have to fork out money for some health insurance. They also have to consider the cost of supplies, renting a studio, and marketing. Yep, they have to market themselves through websites, business cards, or sandwich boards—anything that gets people to notice their artwork. There are tens of thousands of painters in the world. They need to get noticed to make the dough, which they need for sandwiches.