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Choose an Oil Painting: Being on the Safe Side

Thinking of buying a painting, you ask about the price, artist’s name, style, colour, etc. But rarely does anyone think about the materials used in the canvas, while they are very important. For example, if you want a work that does not require special storage conditions, then you should buy an oil painting. And we will tell you what their advantages are.
Choose an Oil Painting: Being on the Safe Side

What you need to know about oil painting

For the production of oil paints, cold-pressed linseed oil is considered an ideal component. This golden oil is odourless. But in the old days, artists often experimented. Albrecht Dürer, for example, used walnut oil to make paints, which he passed through sifted coal. Titian used poppy seed oil and additionally brightened it, leaving it in the sun.

Linen canvas is the basis for oil paintings. Such material differs in the degree of graininess. Fine-grained canvas has an almost smooth surface, it is often used for portraits or works that require drawing details. You can buy a landscape painting in oil on a coarse-grained canvas, it is often used for textured painting. Sometimes artists save money and use cotton canvas. But it has less strength. Oil pictures are also painted on burlap, wood or plywood.

A primer is preliminarily applied to the base so that the paints stay safe. Brushes or palette knives are used. To preserve the image better, it is varnished so that the paints do not peel off. Rubens used a clear varnish for this, which was made of poppy seed oil mixed with lavender essence and copra.

Why oil?

These paintings change little colour over time. The oil gets oxidised in the presence of light and air, but it forms a thin transparent film that retains the pigments.

Such paintings are much less exposed to moisture and sunlight than pastels and watercolours. These works are made with paints that are resistant to adverse influences. And they also are good for restoration. Although the paint layer may crack and the base may stretch, an experienced craftsman can restore the canvas to its original appearance. Therefore, you can buy an inexpensive oil painting, and still pass it on to your children and grandchildren.

How to care for the painting

Oil painting can please your eye with its rich colours for a long time. But this does not mean that it requires no maintenance. One must take into account its age.

When an artist prepares a painting for an exhibition, they know that the oil must dry for 4 to 12 days, and they have time to re-paint a fragment if necessary. It takes a longer time for the painting to dry completely, up to three years. Therefore, an oil painting that was painted about a year ago is considered young and not dry enough. Substances are added to modern paints that speed up drying, but do not rely on them too much.

Don’t hang the picture under direct sunlight hoping that it will dry out faster this way. This can cause the paint to peel off. But the canvas needs to be provided with soft diffused sunlight. And it is advised to hang the picture in a warm, well-ventilated room.

Linseed oil, which constitutes the basis of the paints, can turn yellow without light. Therefore, a painting that has been lying in the dark for a long time will change colour eventually. But if exposed to the sun for 10 days, it brightens.

Dust at the surface of the painting should be wiped off with a slightly damp cloth, and then wiped again with a dry cloth. It is better not to use cotton swabs, as they leave fibres. If cracks appear on the surface of the painting, then you cannot wipe it with a damp cloth. You need to immediately contact the restoration workshop.

Where to buy an oil painting

Such canvases are sold in galleries. In Moscow, you can also buy an oil painting from street artists. But you have to be careful. They often sell prints printed on canvas under the guise of oil paintings. Modern printing technologies allow for stunning similarities. Therefore, do not hesitate to examine the painting up close to see if there are streaks and rushes of paint on it. It also happens that ink is partly applied onto printer ink. Then you need to pay attention to smooth and flat areas without relief, and carefully consider them.

Better yet, buy proven work. They can be found on our website. In the corresponding section, we have collected the works by more than 30 thousand artists, and you will surely find many interesting paintings.