The History of Paintings
It seems humans have been drawn to artistic expression for millennia. Some of the oldest known paintings can be found at the Chauvet Cave in France, which are estimated to be about 32,000 years old.
Tempera paint was the preferred medium of choice in Renaissance Italy. It has been used since antiquity, and examples from the first centuries AD still exist today.
During the late Renaissance, oil painting techniques were developed in the Netherlands, which quickly spread across Europe. Oil paint is a more flexible medium, and allows for a greater range of optical effects; this in turn led to new expressive techniques for artists.
During the Era of Enlightenment, five genres of paintings were advocated by art academies, including the French Academy and the Royal Academy in London. The genres were organized into a hierarchy, and include history painting, portraits, landscapes, still lifes, and genre painting.
The invention of photography in the 19th century greatly affected the course of painting. As photographic processes advanced, it took away from painting its historic purpose of recording the world.
The art movements of the late 19th century and early 20th century, including Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, and Cubism, were steps away from previous art movements that were rooted in realism and capturing the surrounding world with paint.
Modern art movements, such as Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism and Pop Art, are far more concerned with art concepts and technique, than in a need to accurately record one’s surrounding world.
Painting Techniques Overview
Paint is a liquid mixture of pigment and a binding agent such as oil or water. A painting is created on a two-dimensional surface (ground); a wall painting or fresco is also considered to be a painting.
Oil, acrylic, and watercolor are some of the most common types of paint today. Oil paint dries very slowly, so artists are easily able to blend colors together. The oil is derived from linseed, walnut and poppy. Tempera paint is created by mixing egg yolk with pigment. It dries much more slowly than even oil paint, and allows for the artist to easily blend colors.
Watercolor can be created by mixing pigment with water, and is usually applied to paper. Before the 19th century, watercolor was used primarily for sketches, but with artists such as J.M.W. Turner, it slowly grew to be respected as a medium. Acrylic paint, which was invented in the 20th century, is synthetic and water-soluble, and when it dries looks very similar to oil paint.
Acrylic paint is perhaps the most popular type of paint with modern and contemporary artists. In order to create a painting, an artist will apply paint with a brush, or other tool such as a palette knife, to a surface such as a canvas, wood panel, paper, wall, glass, copper, or concrete.
Famous Painters and their Paintings
The Renaissance saw the rise of master artists who created a great number of the world's most famous paintings including “The Last Supper” and "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci, and “Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli. Other famous artists of the Renaissance include Raphael, Michelangelo, Van Eyck, and Titian.
The Baroque movement of the 17th century included Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and Rubens, which was followed by the Rococo movement (Boucher and Fragonard), and the French neo-classical movement (David and Ingres).
Romanticism, which is encapsulated by the works of Goya, Delacroix, Turner, and Constable, was followed by Realism, of which the French artists Courbet and Manet are most recalled today.
Perhaps the best known of the Impressionist artists is Claude Monet, whose "Water Lilies" (Nympheas) is a series of approximately 250 art paintings that depict Monet’s flower garden in Giverny.
Other famous Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists include Degas, Cassatt, Morisot, Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Seurat. Notable 20th century painters include Pollock and Rothko of the Abstract Expressionist movement, as well as by Kahlo, Dali, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Richter, and Doig. Pablo Picasso is perhaps the most noted artist of the 20th century. One of the most famous Picasso paintings, “Guernica,” is a powerful anti-war piece which depicts the bombing of innocent civilians during the Spanish Civil War.