painting attributes

Do You Know the History of Oil Painting?

A little about oil paintings

Oil paintings have been the medium of choice for professional artists for centuries because of rich colours and brilliant glow they lend to the subject. The fascination with oil to the artist continues to grow as new materials and techniques from throughout the world are used.

This adaptable media has a long history, and its reputation among many oil painting artist, as well as buyers and connoisseurs, has remained consistent.

The ancient oil paintings discovered to date are murals created on cave walls representing Buddhist monks praying in the Afghan province of Bamiyan. Layers of the conserved paint were found to include oils, most based largely on poppy seed or, walnut which were frequent pigment binders.

This painting dates from around 650 AD, indicating that oil paints were used for artistic reasons for longer than previously thought, albeit they did not become widely employed in Europe till the time of the Renaissance.

Where did it start

Oil paints were first used in Italy in the twelfth century for simple ornamentation on structures, but by the 15th century, they were commonly used as movable works of art. Artists experimented with a diversity of solvents to enable for more economical use of color in their paintings, as well as a variety of extenders to cut costs without reducing paint vibrancy.

While most of the earlier works were static, some were made on wooden planks. This was robust, but it took a long time to prepare the fairly pricey base parts. To construct the early canvases that are famous today, a widely accessible canvas sailcloth was prepared and stretched as a more cost-effective option.

The Early Netherlandish Painters came to prominence in the mid-fifteenth century, with names like Hieronymus Bosch and Jan van Eyck pioneering the oil paint used for their slow quality of drying, which allowed for more control on the paint application.

Because of the slower drying time, it was simpler to achieve subtler blends than with other paints available at that time. This technique of painting gradually expanded throughout Italy and Europe, and just within a 20-year span, painting on wood panels using oil paint had then become the custom for many painters.

Oil paintings became highly sought after as these techniques became more widely adopted, and many artists travelled to execute commissions for affluent clientele. Portraits and religious imagery were particularly popular, and by this time, oil painting had largely established itself as Europe’s dominant painting style, which it would remain for centuries.

Evolution of oils

Now oil paints are available in water-miscible compositions. This has the added benefit of allowing for a significantly faster drying time, thus allowing work to be done in days rather than weeks or months.

It also allows the pigments to be diluted for mixing and glazing processes by using water instead of harmful and expensive chemical solvents. The various solvents wreak havoc on artists’ brushes, drastically reducing their useful life.

These new water-friendly formulas make it possible to paint with oils without worrying about some of the caustic chemical components and making them safe for use in the longer run.

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