Canvas Oil Paintings – Art Traditional Method For Centuries

Introduction to Canvas Oil Paintings

Oil painting is a traditional method of art that has been practiced for more than 8 centuries.  What differentiates this form of painting from other kinds of contemporary watercolor and dry painting techniques is the fact that it uses colored pigments that are bound in a continuously drying oil medium. This oil can be of a few types; but the ones used predominantly for most classical paintings have to be linseed and poppyseed oils. More rarely; some artists have also used safflower and walnut oils but to a lesser extent.

Usually the oil is responsible for acting like a varnish; that is, after drying it provides the paint a protective layer which also has a slight gloss to it. This gives oil paintings their distinctive look which is strikingly different from watercolors which appear to be matt finished with little or no gloss whatsoever.

History of Oil Paintings


Oil paintings have been around in one form of another ever since the era of Buddha and records of such paintings have been found in Buddhist relics all over India, Afghanistan and even China dating back to the 5th century. But the realm of oil paintings as they are known today and the major artists who are world renowned and respected for their contributions are largely exclusive of Europe and date back to the early 1300s.

The art of oil painting as we know it today is credited to northern European painters of the Renaissance era and Jan van Eyck is generally regarded as the inventor of conventional oil painting techniques. You can try your luck by reading up on Oil Painting techniques.

Artists from early Netherland are also credited as having played a huge role in the development of oil painting as it is known today. Though initially all oil painting was done on thin boards of wood, canvases didn’t arrive until about the mid-1400s. Canvases gave the medium a whole new approach, since they were soft and easily more affordable too.

Cloth based canvases could also be folded and in this way transported over long distances very easily. Artists experimented on a number of mediums before settling on canvas; historic artifacts from this era assert that painters of the era also used copper plates and other metals because it allowed for finer attention to detail, but was also more expensive. Eventually though, cotton and linen canvases were adopted as the standard mediums for oil painting owing to their greater flexibility, affordability and ease of preparation.

Famous Artists


Nearly all famous artists from around the world have made oil paintings on canvas, amongst them the most popular and famous ones include; Leonardo da Vinci, Edgar Degas, Picasso, Gustav Klimt, Jan van Eyck, Rembrandt, Francois Boucher, Johannes Vermeer, Titian, Vincent van Gogh, Peter Paul Rubens, Raphael, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Mark Chagall, Paul Cezanne, Wassily Kandinsky, Claude Monet, Thomas Gainsborough, Eugene Delacroix, Rene Magritte, Jack Vettriano, Frederic Leighton, Fernando Botero, Ilya Repin, and Frida Kahlo, among others.

Famous Paintings

Some of the most popular oil canvas paintings include The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Self Portrait by Anders Zorn, The Francesco St Jerome by Giovane, The Toilet of Venus by Francois Boucher, The Anatomy Lesson by Rembrandt, La donna velata by Raphael, the Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck, The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer, the Raising of the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens, The Rape of Europa by Titian, The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough, Reply of the Zaporozhian by Ilya Repin, Bella with White Collar by Marc Chagall, The Card Players by Paul Cezanne, Woman with a Parasol by Claude Monet, Le Moulin de la Galette by Pierre Renoir Auguste, the Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent van Gogh, and Composition VII by Wassily Kandinsky.


The Traditional Process of Oil Painting

The traditional techniques of oil painting are many and varied, but the general process that is followed by most contemporary artists starts with the subjects being drawn on the canvas in pencil.

This is done so the artist can be precise when it comes to filling colors later; all the broad details like ripples on a dress or distinctions between light and shade are first outlined in pencil. Then the painter starts filling in colors, one layer at a time until the desired shade and consistency is obtained.

Once the painting is finished, it is left to dry and harden, which can take anything from a few days to even weeks.

About the author

Arlene is a passionate art lover, with interests including researching famous historic painters, oil paintings, wall arts, and doodling around with colors!

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