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The year 1949 in art involved some significant events and new works.
- Formation of Penwith Society of Arts in St Ives, Cornwall.
- Philadelphia Artists Equity is established in Pennsylvania, United States, to protect artists’ rights and improve working and economic conditions for fine artists.
- Young Contemporaries exhibition, initiated by Carel Weight for the British Society of Artists Galleries, establishes the New Contemporaries series.
- David Jones begins a 5-year sequence of watercolours of flowers in glasses.
- Yves Klein paints his first monochromes, while apprenticed to a picture-frame maker in London.
- Francis Bacon – Head III, Head IV, Head V, Head VI
- Brenda Chamberlain – The Fisherman's Return (National Museum of Wales)
- Salvador Dalí
- Sir William Reid Dick – Lady Godiva (equestrian bronze, Coventry)
- Sir Russell Drysdale – West Wyalong
- Frida Kahlo
- Tadeusz Kantor – Man with Umbrella
- L. S. Lowry
- The Canal Bridge
- The Football Match
- The Spire
- Henry Moore – Family Group (first casting)
- Robert Motherwell – Five in the Afternoon
- Barnett Newman – Abraham
- William Scott
- Frying Pan and Eggs
- Still Life with Candlestick
- Graham Sutherland – Somerset Maugham
- Vladimir Tretchikoff – The Dying Swan
- Boris Vladimirski – Roses for Stalin
- Lucien Wercollier – Le prisonnier politique (bronze)
- February 17 – Peter Kennard, English photomontage artist
- April 9 – Stephen Hickman, American illustrator, sculptor and author
- May 7 – Deborah Butterfield, American sculptor
- May 12 – Ross Bleckner, American painter
- July 6 – Tibor Kalman, Hungarian-American graphic designer (d. 1999)
- August 12 – Glòria Muñoz, Spanish painter
- August 15 – Richard Deacon, British sculptor
- August 27 – Istvan Kantor, Hungarian-Canadian performance artist
- Jim Dolan, American sculptor
- P. K. Mahanandia, Indian-born portrait artist
- Charlie Waite, English landscape photographer
- March 17 – Aleksandra Ekster, painter and designer, Art Deco pioneer (b. 1882)
- May 3 – Mariano Fortuny, fashion designer (b. 1871)
- May 15 – Henri Beau, Canadian Impressionist painter (b. 1863)
- June 21 – Edward Wadsworth, English Vorticist painter (b. 1889)
- August 8 – Joaquín Torres García, Uruguayan painter (b. 1874)
- September 7 - José Clemente Orozco, Mexican painter and illustrator (b. 1883)
- September 25 – Henri Manguin, painter (b. 1874)
- November 3 – Solomon R. Guggenheim, art collector (b. 1861)
- November 19 – James Ensor, painter (b. 1860)
- (Herbert Barnard) John Everett, English marine artist (b. 1877)