Oil painting is one of the most widespread painting techniques based on using:
- oil paint, prepared by mixing pigments with drying oil (including linseed oil, poppy seed oil etc.)
- surface for painting (linen or cotton canvas, wooden panel, paperboard) previously coated with a primer;
- brushes made with hog bristle or synthetics, but palette knife, sponges or rags are also used;
- palette: wood board, wax paper, ceramic or glass plate. A glass plate is the handiest palette to use: it doesn’t absorb oil and it can be cleaned easily;
- special paint thinner or turpentine to thin oil paints or to clean paint brushes.
Though the history of oil paints goes far back into Antiquity, there is a widespread belief that a Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck (1390–1441) is an inventor of oil paints. In Europe oil became widespread only in the 15th century but not by the merit of van Eyck. Until the 15th century painters used tempera but it didn’t have as many advantages as oil paints:
- oil paints blend easily, so that a painter can get a necessary colour;
- oil dries more slowly than other paints, so you can easily correct flaws on your painting;
- oil paintings don’t lose their aesthetic value over time — if properly kept, paint doesn’t fade or change its colour.
Eventually, oil replaced tempera and established itself as the main artistic medium by the 16th century. Oil painting is still one of the main artistic techniques in contemporary art. Paintings used to be a «luxury item», because not everyone could afford decorating the house with an original painting by a famous artist. Nowadays the art has become more affordable and available — everyone can order a painting to his or her taste painted by a professional artist such as:
The classification of painting genres is based on the subject matters of paintings:
- Still life painting depicts inanimate subject matters;
- Portrait painting depicts a person or a group of people;
- Landscape painting (cityscape, village landscape, winter landscape, summer landscape) is a depiction of natural scenery;
- Genre painting depicts scenes from everyday life of ordinary people;
- Battle painting depicts battle scenes.
Art movements are classified according to the distinctive techniques or ideas. For example:
- Realism is an art movement of the 19-20th centuries. Its main idea was to represent subject matter of the painting truthfully and accurately;
- Impressionism is a 19th century art movement. The Impressionists attempted to represent the reality in its changing qualities;
- Modernism is a 20th century art movement characterized by the denial of traditions and aesthetics of the past;
- Primitivism (naïve painting)is an art movement of the 19th century. Its main feature is simplification of a painting so that it looks primitive as though painted by a child.
How to Care for Oil Paintings
If you are going to buy an oil painting, here are a few tips for you:
- don’t hang your painting in direct sunlight: though the varnish keeps your painting from destroying, but in direct sunlight the paint can fade;
- if your painting isn’t varnished, you can coat it with varnish yourself — it’s not that difficult;
- it’s better to hang a painting at an angle to the wall so that the dust settles on the frame but not on the painting’s surface;
- dust your painting with a soft wet cloth. The cloth should not be too wet, because plenty of water can destroy a painting;
- you have to be careful with an oil painting, because over time oil hardens and becomes dry and so can crack easily.