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115,226 artworks, 10,018 artists
Oil painting is a fine art technique in which visual images are created by applying a blend of dry pigments and vegetable oil onto a rigid or flexible surface. As a solid base, artists use wooden boards, copper plates, hardboard, particle boards, cardboard and paper. For a flexible surface, they choose durable fabric of flax, cotton, silk and wool fibres. The canvas roughness creates an extra reflection of light; therefore, the fabric texture has become one of the key elements of the technique. Priming is applied to the base surface, an intermediate layer that is used for fixing the flowing oil and strong binding of the colour texture with the base. The quality of the priming determines the durability of a painting and the brightness of tints. The main elements of oil painting are “transparent” or “covering” pigments and oil of linseed, poppy or walnuts. The centuries have turned the technology into a versatile and influential trend in the visual arts.
Antiquity brought us the technique of mixing pigments in bleached linseed oil to obtain a stable material for drawing. Art historians consider the early 15th century as the period of the oil painting formation. It was then that the Dutch artist Jan van Eyck demonstrated new pictorial possibilities of the technology: bright and rich colour diversity, the refractivity of the coating, the interpenetration of the complex shades and the application of layers onto each other. The long drying time allowed to change the paintings so it did not require artists to plan the details accurately. The painters added varnish to the oil blend to give shine and glow to an image. The paintings by Jan van Eyck have been preserved for 500 years and they still amaze the contemporaries with the masterful technology.
Oil paints are divided into mineral and organic, depending on the colouring substance: pigment or oil-soluble dye. Metal oxides are the source of mineral paints. Organic dyes are obtained from plants or animals: the products of burning bones and wood, the animal and insect wastes. Tools for oil painting include brushes made of soft and hard bristles, natural or synthetic. Dosing and mixing of paints is carried out on a palette — a wooden plate. The artist creates a preparatory drawing with charcoal or soft graphite. Paintings with a single-layer image imply work completion in one step and require artistic skill, while the multi-layer ones have alternating layers of transparent and translucent paints. For five centuries, oil painters have created an extensive collection of large and miniature paintings. In the 20th century, the technology has lost popularity: the development of the chemical industry allowed to use the new materials.