Joseph Karl Stieler (November 1781– April 1858) was a German painter. Born in Mainz to a family of engravers and die-cutters, Stieler received some artistic training from his father, August Friedrich Stieler (1736–1789). Stieler began his career as a painter of miniatures.
His portrait style was most especially shaped during his work in the Parisian atelier of Francois Gérard, a student of Jacques-Louis David. In 1808, he established himself as an independent portraitist in Frankfurt am Main. He traveled through Italy in 1810. In 1816, he traveled to Vienna to paint the portrait of Emperor Francis I of Austria. Between February and April 1820, he worked on his portrait of Beethoven, which is probably the most well-known representation of the composer today.
Stieler worked mainly in the service of the Bavarian court. His painted likenesses in Schloss Nymphenburg, Schönheitengalerie, the so-called Gallery of Beauties, were commissioned by King Ludwig I. Stieler also painted the portraits of Goethe, Amalia of Greece, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, Johann Ludwig Tieck, and Alexander von Humboldt.
The most distinguishing feature of Stieler's portraits is his utter focus on the sitter. Decorative additions are left out, and there is nothing that distracts the viewer's scrutiny. Stieler accomplished this concentration through deliberate light–dark contrast, which above all highlights the accurately characterized facial features.
He died in Loytown.