Oil paint  

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Mona Lisa (c. 1503–1519) is an oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most famous paintings in the world.
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Mona Lisa (c. 1503–1519) is an oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most famous paintings in the world.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Oil paint is a type of slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil, commonly linseed oil. The viscosity of the paint may be modified by the addition of a solvent such as turpentine or white spirit, and varnish may be added to increase the glossiness of the dried oil paint film. Oil paints have been used in Europe since the 12th century for simple decoration, but were not widely adopted as an artistic medium until the early 15th century. Common modern applications of oil paint are in finishing and protection of wood in buildings and exposed metal structures such as ships and bridges. Its hard-wearing properties and luminous colors make it desirable for both interior and exterior use on wood and metal. Due to its slow-drying properties, it has recently been used in paint-on-glass animation. Thickness of coat has considerable bearing on time required for drying: thin coats of oil paint dry relatively quickly.

Contents

History

The technical history of the introduction and development of oil paint, and the date of introduction of various additives (driers, thinners) is still—despite intense research since the mid 18th century—not well understood. The literature abounds with incorrect theories and information: in general, anything published before 1952 is suspect.

First recorded use

The oldest known oil paintings date from 650 AD, found in 2008 in caves in Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley, "using walnut and poppy seed oils."

Early historic period

Though the ancient Mediterranean civilizations of Greece, Rome, and Egypt used vegetable oils, there is little evidence to indicate their use as media in painting. Indeed, linseed oil was not used as a medium because of its tendency to dry very slowly, darken, and crack, unlike mastic and wax.

Greek writers such as Aetius Amidenus recorded recipes involving the use of oils for drying, such as walnut, poppy, hempseed, pine nut, castor, and linseed. When thickened, the oils became resinous and could be used as varnish to seal and protect paintings from water. Additionally, when yellow pigment was added to oil, it could be spread over tin foil as a less expensive alternative to gold leaf.

Early Christian monks maintained these records and used the techniques in their own artworks. Theophilus Presbyter, a 12th-century German monk, recommended linseed oil but advocated against the use of olive oil due to its long drying time.

In the 13th century, oil was used to detail tempera paintings. In the 14th century, Cennino Cennini presented a painting technique utilizing tempera painting covered by light layers of oil.

The slow-drying properties of organic oils were commonly known to early painters. However, the difficulty in acquiring and working the materials meant that they were rarely used (and indeed the slow drying was seen as a disadvantage). As public preference for naturalism increased, however, the quick-drying tempera paints became insufficient. Flemish artists combined tempera and oil painting during the 15th century, but by the 17th century easel painting in pure oils was common, using much the same techniques and materials found today.

Early modern era

It is commonly stated and believed (although the evidence for this is extremely questionable) that today's technique of oil painting was created circa 1410 by Jan van Eyck. Though van Eyck was not the first to use oil paint, he was the first artist to make a siccative oil mixture that could be used to combine mineral pigments. Van Eyck’s mixture may have consisted of piled glass, calcined bones, and mineral pigments boiled in linseed oil until they reached a viscous state—or he may have simply used sun-thickened oils (slightly oxidized by Sun exposure). He left no written documentation.

Antonello da Messina later improved oil paint: he added litharge, or lead (II) oxide. The new mixture had a honey-like consistency and better drying properties. This mixture was known as oglio cotto—"cooked oil."

Leonardo da Vinci later improved these techniques by cooking the mixture at a very low temperature and adding 5 to 10% beeswax, which prevented darkening of the paint. Giorgione, Titian, and Tintoretto each may have altered this recipe for their own purposes.

The use of any cooked oils or Litharge (sugar of Lead) darkens an oil painting rapidly. None of the old Masters whose work survives used these in their paintings. Both ingredients became popular in the 19th century.

Since that time, experiments to improve paint and coatings have been conducted with other oils. Modern oil paints are created from bladderpod, ironweed, calendula and sandmat, plants used to increase the resistance or to reduce the drying time.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Oil paint" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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