Started in the Ancient Civilizations with organic oils. Mesopotamian civilizations used mainly used walnut oils while the later civilizations of Greece and Rome used vegetable oils as they found the paint wouldn’t crack or fade as much.
Oils qualities allow for it to be applied to many different surfaces, more modernly on canvas however.
The long drying times of oil mean that artists using this medium would paint in sessions. Depending on the type of oil, drying time could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks as it doesn’t evaporate to dry like water colors. Instead, oil dries by an oxidative chemical reaction over time.
Oil paints were originally desired because they: form elastic bonds to their surfaces and don’t run with gravity, they would provide a natural shine when dried, the colors were much more vivid than watercolors, and the oil in the paints would closely represent the oil in human skin thus making it ideal for portraits.
Timeline Major Artistic Movements for Oil Painting Early Important Dates
650 AD Oldest known oil painting dated back to. Found in 2008 in the Bamiyan Valley (Present-Day Afghanistan) and it used walnut and poppy seed oils.
1300’s Up until now, oil mainly used to coat tempera paintings to liven the colors.
1410 Jan Von Eyck is credited with devising the current method for oil painting. He used more modern chemistry, and combined mineral pigments for longer-lasting, brighter colors. Also, his methods were more water durable.
1500’s Leonardo Da Vinci improved on Von Eyck’s advancements, most importantly adding beeswax to the oil mixture to prevent the colors from darkening.
The Neoclassical Era 1750-1830
Classified by paintings of classical subjects with precise historical accuracy.
Widely considered a renewal of the Renaissance in Italy.
Opposed to the showy works of the Baroque artists.
Used classical elements that promoted nationalism and patriotism.
Oil is no longer just mainly stream, but also the most popular among the most notable neoclassical artists
Dominique-Ingres Jean Auguste
David Oath of the Horatii NeoclassicalArtwork In-Depth
By Jacques-Louis David.
Painted in France in 1784.
Based off of a scene in 669 B.C. from Titus-Livy.
Shows overly dramatic lighting and shadows by use.
The way the gestures of the man are clearly represented show a patriotic theme.
Oils used in this painting gave more dramatic and deeper blacks, as well as a glossy shine to the helmet and swords.
The Romantic Era 1790-1875 Dominique-Ingres Jean Auguste
Intellectual movement that
appeared most commonly in art, music, and literature.
Undermined the established social
orders and religion.
Caused in part by the rapid social
change during the French Revolution, As many pieces of art from this era depict social struggles.
Individualism and imagination were key tenants to the movement.
Emotion and senses came before reason and intellect.
Nature overly personified, the mysterious, inner genius, moods, and personal or class struggles moved artists specifically during the Romantic era.
Art shows dynamic lines and detail work, as well as many new techniques.
Liberty Leading the People Romantic Artwork In-Depth
By Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863)
Painted France in 1830.
Eugene tries to emphasize the intellectual strength and determination of the middle-lower class citizens by giving them a heroic appearance in this work especially.
Oil being the medium of this piece allowed for the red in the tri-colored flag to stand out so vibrantly as it does. Oil is also responsible for the accurately represented skin tones that gleam with sweat, further
exaggerating the work required by the middle class to revolve.
Clearly inspired by personal opinion was this piece as Delacroix is the man with the black clothes and musket in the painting.
This Artwork was also used as the cover art of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida Album that was released in 2008 proving it’s influence as an powerful visual piece from around the French Revolution.
The Realistic Era 1850-1900’s
Nothing embellished, as the paintings of this era provided accurate depictions of the subjects.
Began in France around 1850, around the same time as the invention of the still camera.
The advent of the camera pushed artists to duplicate the accuracy that film created giving birth to the realistic era of art.
Oil continued to be a popular medium of art because like stated earlier, it has the ability to generate realistic tones whether or not things like lighting or characterization were overly dramatized.
Realistic artists poised themselves against the romantic artists because they felt as though art should be unbiased.
Workers were commonly the subject of realistic art as the Industrial Revolution was in full swing.
Notable artists of this era are
Adolf von Menzel
Jean François Millet
Sliding Wooden Box Camera Invented by Joseph NicephoreNiepce in 1814
TheGleaners Realistic Artwork In-Depth
Painted in oils by Jean-François Millet in 1857.
Painted in drafts as the one on the right is the final. Obviously this method emphasizes accuracy.
Named after the Gleaner Manufacturing Company that began during the Industrial Revolution.
This painting’s realism sows the painstaking work required by these three peasant women at the base of the economy in France at the time.
Upper classes heavily criticized this piece as they felt it brought socialist ideas along with it.
Gained Millet notoriety after his death , and this work currently sits in the the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.