Creative Learning

Amazing Facts You Won’t Know about Oil Painting

A messy paint studio with oil paintings in the background and paintbrushes in a pot in the foreground.

Oil painting is seen as one of the most prestigious and difficult mediums to create in, but we think we should all just get stuck in!

You can’t get good at something if you don’t try, so that’s why we work with local artist Jemisha Maadhavji to facilitate oil painting class at the centre every term. But as a starter, let’s learn somethings about oil painting that we bet you won’t have heard before.

Some pigments had jewels in them.

Good quality paints, back in day, were always expensive to purchase, however, at one point the most expensive pigment was ultra-marine. This is because it was made from lapis lazuli, a precious stone that was crushed up and add to a binding agent to create the paint. This pigment can be found in ancient, illuminated manuscripts today.

Don’t sit around watching the paint dry.

Unlike acrylics or watercolours, oil paints don’t actually dry. Instead, they harden due to oxidation. This process of hardening can take anywhere from two weeks to many years as so many factors can affect the process, and you need to wait until it is fully hardened to varnish it.

Oil painting is old.

The earliest known oil paintings date back to the 7th century CE, and were found in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan caves that were paintings of Buddhist murals. Oil paints did not appear in Europe until the 15th century, and before that they used egg tempera to paint.

It used to be a lot harder to get the pigments prepared.

Before the invention of ready-made paints, artists would have to prepare the pigments themselves or hire an apprentice to complete the task for them. The process required the pigments to be ground down, to boil the oils ready for the mixture, and use exact formulas to create their oil paints.

Metal tubes revolutionised painting.

Due to the need of artists to prepare their own paints, this left them studio-bound a lot of the time. However, the invention of premixed oil paints in 1841 allowed artists to paint outdoors. The metal tubing meant that they were easy to carry around, and the ready-to-use nature meant they could paint whenever the inspiration hit them. August Renoir said of this phenomenon “Without paint int tubes there would have been no Cezanne, no Monet, no Sisley, or Pissarro.”

Oil painting is such an incredible art that has a rich history to back it up, so why not give it a go today by exploring our What’s On.

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