19 March 2016

Oil painting – a history

Oil painting - a history - brownrigg

This post discusses the importance of oil paintings throughout the centuries using examples of pieces we have here in our Tetbury showroom.

Oil painting is considered by many to have created the most significant impact in the development of painting as a visual art form. Due to oil paints versatility and long last colour it has been a favored choice by artists for many centuries. The earliest known example of oil painting is recorded in 11th Century; however, the practice of easel painting with oil colours grew out of 15th century tempura painting.

The availability of new pigments and solvents allowed Belgian painters, such as Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, to sufficiently decrease the paints’ drying time. This enabled artists an easier method of developing their compositions and allowed them to revise their works. These artists virtuoso handling of the medium represented a turning point in the 15th century as oil paint was adopted as the elitist medium for artists in Europe. The use of rich colours allowed artists to create a new sense of realism. As oil paint is highly flexible, with countless types of brushstroke possible, texture became new way of communicating reflective, polished and rough surfaces. Whilst shadows were created through a soft blending process and luminous lighting created during the slow drying process.

Our showroom in Tetbury houses many fine examples of the use of oil paint as a medium in portraiture but also landscape scenes. One of our earliest examples is a canvas attributed to William Williams (1727- 1791).

See more by browsing our antique and modern oil paintings