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Oil Painters And Their Famous Paintings

The art portal Arthive invites you on a tour of our gallery, which contains oil paintings created by foreign and local artists. Biographies of the creators and descriptions that complement the canvas, will help you to take a fresh look at paintings and understand the author's idea. You can also purchase oil paintings or their copies, and decorate the interior of your home with them.

Who was the first artist to paint in oil?

The name of the genius who invented oil paint is unknown – the story of its creation is hidden in the depths of centuries. The oldest samples of oil painting date back to the 7th century BC. For several centuries, the secret of the components of oil paint was lost: artists of the Middle Ages preferred to paint with tempera on a wooden primed panel, occasionally using linseed or walnut oil as a final coat on a finished painting. The result was always unpredictable: some paintings dried out without significant deformation of the paint, while on the others, there appeared cracks – both small and quite large ones.

Flemish artist Jan van Eyck, who worked at the turn of the 14th – 15th centuries, was frustrated when one of his oil paintings cracked. He decided to create a varnish that would dry in the shade and prevent paintings from cracking. One by one, van Eyck's experiments with oil failed – the paintings were spoiled. Once the artist mixed turpentine (which back then was called "white varnish from Bruges") with linseed oil. The solution turned out to be too liquid, and van Eyck mixed it with a coloring pigment.

After testing a new paint, the artist found out that it didn't dry too quickly, allowing to touch up paintings if needed. Moreover, the work didn't crack after drying and the paint didn't fade. Van Eyck shared his discovery with fellow artists, and they began to actively use new paint to create their own works.
In the 15th century, oil paintings by Dutch artists caused a sensation among painters in Germany and France, and then oil paint got to Italy. There, the baton was picked up by painter Antonello da Messina, thanks to whom the Venetian painters found out about the amazing abilities of oil paints.

Famous artists who created oil paintings

Painters of the past produced oil paints on their own, mixing the necessary components in certain proportions. This allowed them to experiment with applying of layers and create colourful bright pictures.

Albrecht Dürer got into painting in oil during his first trip to Venice. He decided to improve the method of making oil paints and after a few tries, chose to go with walnut oil passed through sifted coal. Dürer's painting The Feast of the Rosary was praised by the doge of the Republic, Leonardo Loredan, and the main artist of Venice, Giovanni Bellini. In particular, eminent critics noted the brightness of shades and the amazing skill of the artist. Other oil paintings by Dürer include Adam and Eve, self portraits of 1493 and 1498, Emperor Charlemagne, Portrait of Frederick the Wise.

Rubens, who created such painting as The Three Graces, Adoration of the Magi, The Judgment of Paris, Thee Portrait of Marie de' Medici and a number of self-portraits, used his own method of making paints. He mixed coconut copra, lavender essence and poppyseed oil.

Titian worked on his Danaë, The Entombment, Girl in a Fur, The Rape of EuropaThe Fall of Man and other paintings, using paint created by mixing lavender essence with poppyseed oil, which he made lighter in the sun.

Da Vinci's experiments with the ingredients of paint, combined with the painter's skills, gave the world such masterpieces as La Gioconda, Lady with an Ermine, Benois Madonna, Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci. In order to give his oil paintings some volume, depth, and life, Leonardo used the technique of sfumato – applying thin layers of oil paint by using numerous tiny brush-strokes.

1841 became a turning point for oil painting: John Rand, an artist from America, invented a container for storing oil paints. Thanks to his tin tube with a screw cap, painters around the world were able to create their masterpieces en plein air without wasting time preparing paints; his invention is still used to this day.
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