Oil Painting Essay

Submitted By MissLauraLu
Words: 1337
Pages: 6

Laura Sanchez
Prof. Melissa Geppert
Art History 205
March 14, 2014
1285 Words
The Discovery of Oil Painting The High Renaissance is known for its spectacular works of art, such as its awe-inspiring paintings, which owe their beauty and memorability to the discovery of oil paint. This great discovery was found by the Northern European artists of the 15th century, which artists such as the workshop of the Master of Flemalle and Jan van Eyck incorporated into their most famous paintings, the Merode Altarpiece and the Arnolfini Double Portrait. Oil paint would only become more prominent over time, being used extensively by artists of the High Renaissance such as Leonardo da Vinci in his Mona Lisa. Oil paint consists of powder pigments mixed into linseed oil, though it is sometimes done with walnut oil. This medium dried more slowly than the tempura paint that was typically used at the time. It was easier for artists to work with oil paint because of this property, allowing for them to make changes to their works, blend colors, and add a great amount of detail more easily. Tempura paint, which was more commonly used by Italian artists at the time, used different pigments mixed into egg whites and did not allow artists the same freedom as oil paint. The brilliance of the colors that oil paint offered was another reason that Northern European artists favored oil over tempura. One of the first Northern European uses of oil paint comes from the workshop of the Master of Flemalle. The Merode Altarpiece is a classic example of some of the characteristics common and restricted to 15th century Northern Renaissance paintings, such as an intense attention to detail and vibrant colors. Nearly every aspect of the painting has this incredible attention to detail, from the clothing of the subjects to the emotion on their faces and from the objects laying around the room to the background scenery. The artists were able to create a great contrast between the luminous colors. Flemish realism such as this was only made possible through the use of oil paints. The small size of the Merode Altarpiece did not allow for the detail to be seen at first glance but only after careful inspection of individual segments of the painting. This was also important to Flemish realism, which followed the idea of nominalism, that humans cannot take in reality all at once but only through sensible particulars or fragments. Even though the Merode Altarpiece was one of the first Flemish oil paintings, it was not until Jan van Eyck's works that oil paints gained notoriety. Although a work by Theophilus Presbyter in the 12th century was possibly the first oil paintings in the world, Jan van Eyck was recognized incorrectly by historian Giorgio Vasari as having created oil paints. The reason for this lies in van Eyck's incredible ability to use oil paint to a potential that was unknown to be achievable at the time. The Arnolfini Double Portrait is a great example of just how amazingly van Eyck could use oil paints. In this painting, van Eyck is portraying what is largely believed to be a wedding between a man and a woman of a rather higher class. The idea of wealth comes from the fact that they are surrounded by items that, at the time, would have been considered to be owned only by the wealthy. These items include their clothing, which is shown extravagantly through the woman having more wool fabric on her elaborately cut dress than is necessary, imported oranges on the table, an oriental rug, a costly chandelier, and a rare breed of dog. There is still a great amount of significance in the other objects in the room to show the religious and sacred undertone of this painting. This aspect was in regard to the Flemish realism at the time, since the church was considered important for the spiritualism of men and woman of this period. The dog itself functions as a symbol of fidelity, which would have been an important factor for a newly-wed couple. A symbol of