The history of antique oil paintings is just as long and messy as that of other old periods, with influences from the Egyptians to the Romans.
The first painting that was done with oil paints is believed to be Leonardo’s Mona Lisa which was created between 1503-1506. This paints were created by mixing tempera paint, ground pigment, linseed or walnut oil, white lead and a drying agent.
Some painters switched over to oils because it could create more vibrant colors than the original tempera paint. These painters included Jan van Eyck who has many works still in existence today. The fame of oil paints grew and many painters switched over to it.
By the middle ages, oil paints became so popular that the number of colors available to painters was increasing rapidly and starting to be refined. The pigments were becoming finer and finer and more colors were being produced. This allowed more range in creating different colors, instead of just using black or white as a mixing color for other colors.
During the Renaissance period, well known artists such as Fra Lippo Lippi and Sandro Botticelli began using brighter colors such as yellow, red, green and blue because they were easier to create than making a brown color.
However, the countries of Europe were divided into many different styles. There were landscape painters, portrait painters and still life artists. All of these styles began to use oil paints because it was the only way to create different colors without having to mix them up themselves.
During the 17th century, oil paints became more widely used because they were easier to mix than using powdered pigments. Pigments could be easily mixed with warm water, but this required more care in mixing properly so it would not get clogged up within the brush or paint cup. Also, powdered pigments helped create darker colors than if they had been mixed with water only. These pigments allowed for artists to create a variety of different techniques such as; glazing; scumbling; and impasto.
In the 18th century, oil paints became refined even more by creating more new mixtures of pigments and combining new pigments with older ones. This opened up a lot of possibilities for artists to create new techniques using both older and newer mixtures of pigments. A type of oil paint known as Chinese white was made which was created from mixing lead and wax and this created a brilliant white pigment that could be used on its own or mixed with other colors. Thus, it revolutionized the painting industry once more by allowing painters to create brighter colors than ever before.
Within the 19th century, there were many different types of oil paints made. These included canvas grounds which are paint that are painted onto a canvas or board before being covered by another layer of paint. Other types include tints, tints with oil emulsion, water color, water colors with oil emulsion and oil pastels. By the mid 19th century, the ‘oil industry’ was well known for its innovation in production techniques.
There have been many people that have influenced art history through their research into painting techniques and methods over time using oil paints. An example is Thomas Gainsborough who was one of the first artists to use Chinese white oil paint. He also developed a technique where he would apply thin layers of paint, which created an impressionistic approach to paintings instead of being realistic.
Samuel Palmer was another artist that used Chinese white for his paintings. He believed that oil paints were capable of showing any emotion, which could sometimes be portrayed better than by using color only. He also believed that painting could be done with just one color; instead of using multiple colors to make up an image.