09 March, 2018

Exploring Art: Oil Paintings

Reading time 5-6 mins

William George & Co. invite you to explore the beautiful and vivid world of Art with us. We will be taking a look at the story behind some of the most common types of Art and also the paintings which cemented its position in history. 

The first type of painting that we will look at is the bright and rich world of Oil Painting.

How do you make Oil colours?

Oil colours consist of pigments suspended in drying oils. Making them requires you to mix dry powder pigments with a selected oil. Examples of the oils you can use are:

  • Linseed Oil.
  • Stand Oil.
  • Poppyseed Oil.
  • Walnut Oil.
  • Boiled Oil.

Each oil has its own effect on the outcome of the painting. For example, Linseed oil can add gloss and transparency whereas Stand oil can be used for glazing and also doesn't reveal any brush marks.

When was Oil painting first used?

Oil painting dates back to the 5th century A.D in the Bamian village of Afghanistan. These oil paintings were created by Indian and Chinese painters in caves.

It became discovered that specific vegetable oils had the effect of drying, hardening and keeping clarity. In addition to this, they had a sense of flexibility. This proved advantageous as their flexibility enabled dry pigments to bind to a lot of surfaces. 

When did Oil Painting become popular?

Oil painting did not become widespread until the 15th century. At the time, Jan Van Eyck, a Dutch painter, became famous for his oil works on wood panel works. One of his most notable paintings was the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait.

Their appeal could be found in their brightness which resulted in rich-looking paintworks. The admiration of oil paintings became so intense that it replaced the popular tempura paintings as the most used type of painting.

How has Oil painting evolved over time?

Oil painting has adapted to the requirements of artists at their time which ensured its survival over time.

The linseed oil in binders and mediums bounce the light around and give oil paintings a certain glow. You see it in Mona Lisa's face - Cassandra James

During the Renaissance period, oil painters would use oil paints in layers. What this means is that they would paint one layer, wait for it dry and then paint another layer after adding more oil to the pigment. This ensures that the painting drys properly and the final layer (surface) of the painting will not crack.

During the Impressionist period, artists were liberated as they put their oil colours in tubes so they could paint outside. Furthermore, they would paint wet into wet. This is where the paint is mixed directly on the surface the artist does not wait for the layer to dry before painting again.

What are some famous Oil paintings?

Did you know that these paintings were oil based? Here are some of the most well-known oil paintings:

  • Mona Lisa - Leonardo da Vinci
  • The Starry Night - Vincent van Gogh
  • Whistler’s Mother - James Abbott McNeill Whistler
  • The Water Lily Pond – Claude Monet
  • The Raft of the Medusa - Théodore Géricault
  • Napoleon Crossing the Alps - Jacques-Louis David

Oil painting is an art form which still continues to be admired by the art world. After gifting us iconic works such as Mona Lisa which attracts on average 6 million people a year, it ensures that we will continue to be inspired by its clarity and richness.

Take a look at the next medium which forms part of our series, Watercolours. Did you know that watercolours never quite turn out how the painter imagines? Find out how by the hitting the button below.

William George & Co. Art Series: Oil Paintings
William George & Co. Art Series: Oil Paintings
William George & Co. Art Series: Oil Paintings