The Inventor of Oil Paintings

By Sara Swansson

In comparison to many other art forms, oil painting is still considered relatively new. Oil painting is the use of oil in pigments in order to paint. Oil paintings date back to the 1400’s. Before oil painting, paint was mixed with plaster found in frescoes or egg in tempera paints. The invention of oil paintings occurred because of a new desire for realism in art. Jan Van Eyck is the man credited with the invention of oil painting.

The desire for a more realistic look in art started in early fifteenth century Europe. Previously, art was very mythological and decorative, but with the onset of the Renaissance, artists began to understand concepts and laws behind the ideas of perspective and colors. As a result, more artists began painting realer images.

Jan Van Eyck had a desire to mimic nature in his paintings. In order to achieve his goal, he painted every minute detail about the object he could. Van Eyck’s attention to detail allowed his paintings to seem alive. Unfortunately for Van Eyck, the current painting styles and supplies could not help him achieve his goal of total realism. As a solution to his problem, Van Eyck created oil paintings.

Before Van Eyck, Renaissance painters did not buy colors that were already made. Painters had to make colors themselves from ground up pigments found in plants and minerals that were combined with binder to form a paste. This type of paint was called tempera paint. The problem with tempera paint was that it dried very quickly, and made it virtually impossible to have smooth transitions in painting. Van Eyck wanted to create realism via shading, so tempera paint did not suit his needs. Instead of using egg found in tempera paint, Van Eyck decided to use oil in order to work much more accurately and slowly. Having an oil binder allows the painter to make glossy colors that can be applied in several layers (also known as glazes).

With a tiny pointed brush, Van Eyck was further able to create vivid detail in his paintings. Van Eyck’s work impressed many people, including other artists. Soon, many artists were using oil in their paint mixtures, and oil paintings became a very popular form of art. Oil colors have changed since the time of Van Eyck, but the principals remain the same. Oil paintings allow the painter to create more detailed settings via shading as well as create more lifelike portraits. Van Eyck’s contribution changed art forever.

Sara Swansson recommends Canvaz ( for oil paintings.

Article Source:

Speak Your Mind