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Oil painting is still one of the most widely used techniques, offering many KAZoART artists the opportunity to express themselves in oil paintings on canvas, as original as they are varied, whether abstract or figurative. The history of this technique goes back a long way, yet the infinite possibilities offered by oil paintings on canvas are yet to be fully explored. Discover our outstanding selection of oil on canvas or knife oil paintings!
The beginning of oil painting is traditionally associated with Flemish artists. The Van Eyck brothers, Flemish primitives, are best known for their technical and artistic achievements: The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) is one of the first known oil paintings in Europe. The paintings were often commissions of individuals of notoriety or of elevated social status. However, many oil paintings also evoked a historical, biblical or mythological narrative. Therefore, portraits or famous scenes from myths, legends and stories were often set in fictive environments with a light source and layers of texture. This can be seen in famous oil paintings such as Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (1503-1506) or Rembrandt's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633).
Oil paintings quickly became the artistic norm and many were realized on wood due to a lack of suitable media. Skipping ahead a few centuries, from the 19th century onwards, artists began to leave the comfort of their studios and their works became increasingly inspired by nature. With this shift in environment, oil paintings changed in composition and became slightly less detailed. Take for example, Paul Cézanne's The Hanged Man’s House, Auvers-sur-Oise (1873), Van Gogh's Sunflowers (1888) and Claude Monet's Water Lilies. These oil paintings famously illustrate this change in mentality. Realism was considered less important than emotion, and colors became the main focus of many studies.
Oil paintings were not always figurative. From the beginning of the 20th century, Vasily Kandinsky ushered in a modern shift towards abstraction through his Color Study, Squares with Concentric Circles (1913). The study of pure shapes and colors then became a recurring theme for many artists, including Kasimir Malevitch with Painterly Realism of a Football Player (1915), and Mark Rothko in 1953 with Color-Block n°61 (Rust and Blue). These artists, whose oil paintings can be seen in museums and galleries across the world today, broke the world of art by using this centuries-old material without pairing it with Figurism.
During the Renaissance, artists prepared their own oil paints using natural pigments. Each artist had their own personal formulas, which were often complicated, meticulous and time-consuming.The pigments were found in nature and could be temperamental when mixed together. With the exception of the artists who choose to create oil paintings using the techniques of the Old Masters, very few know the difficulty of making your own paints.
At the time in which oil paints began to be used by artists of the Renaissance, there were no drying additives (e. g. white lead). It therefore took weeks and weeks for the works to fully dry. This was exponentiated by the fact that most of the portraits produced during this time were painted on wooden boards. These boards were heavy and not particularly absorbant. They were difficult to handle and of limited size. When oil paints became more and more commonly used, they begged for a different medium. It was at this time that the canvas, or fabric medium, rather was introduced. This constituted two major advances in art, giving way to all oil paintings eventually being done on canvas.
And then came the 19th century that saw the arrival of a technical revolution. Artists now had the opportunity to buy paint that had already been mixed and packaged in tubes. Impressionist artists immediately seized the opportunity to get out in nature and paint what they saw thanks to the facility of pre-packaged oil paints. It was thanks to this technical intervention that landscape and the latter became a central subject in their works. Because artists did not have to mix their primary oil paint colors, they were now faced with the new challenge of painting quickly in order to capture the moment "in real time".
Oil painting on canvas remains a widely used technique, as its slow drying time and the possibility of mixing pigments make it an infinite source of inspiration for many contemporary artists today. Artists who put their oil paintings for sale now have specific processes to follow before putting their oil paintings for sale in galleries. They leave enough time for the paint to dry before handing it over to the gallery where it will meet its new owner.