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'Painting' taken literally is the practice of applying pigment suspended in a carrier (or medium) and a binding agent (a glue) to a surface (support) such as paper, canvas or a wall. However, when used in an artistic sense it means the use of this activity in combination with drawing, composition and other aesthetic considerations in order to manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of the practitioner. Painting is also used to express spiritual motifs and ideas; sites of this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological figures on pottery to The Sistine Chapel to the human body itself.
Colour is the essence of painting as sound is of music. Colour is highly subjective, but has observable psychological effects, although these can differ from one culture to the next. Black is associated with mourning in the West, but elsewhere white may be. Some painters, theoreticians, writers and scientists, including Goethe, Kandinsky, Newton, have written their own colour theory. Moreover the use of language is only a generalisation for a colour equivalent. The word "red", for example, can cover a wide range of variations on the pure red of the spectrum. There is not a formalised register of different colours in the way that there is agreement on different notes in music, such as C or C# in music, although the Pantone system is widely used in the printing and design industry for this purpose.
Modern artists have extended the practice of painting considerably to include, for example, collage. This began with Cubism and is not painting in strict sense. Some modern painters incorporate different materials such as sand, cement, straw or wood for their texture. Examples of this are the works of Jean Dubuffet or Anselm Kiefer.
Modern and contemporary art has moved away from the historic value of craft in favour of concept; this has led some to say that painting, as a serious art form, is dead, although this has not deterred the majority of artists from continuing to practise it either as whole or part of their work.

History of painting


Also see pre-historic art.

The oldest known 'paintings' are at the Grotte Chauvet in France, claimed by some historians to be about 32,000 years old. They are engraved and painted using red ochre and black pigment and show horses, rhinoceros, lions, buffalo, mammoth or humans often hunting. There are examples of cave paintings all over the world—in France, Spain, Portugal, China, Australia etc. Many theories have been written about these paintings with no objective conclusion. Some sustain that prehistoric men painted animals to "catch" their soul or spirit in order to hunt them more easily, others refer an animistic vision and homage to surrounding nature and others the basic need of expression that is innate to human being. Above this theories we can say that painting as well as all other forms of art are strongly connected with religious or spiritual consciousness, they seem to remind us of our spiritual essence and existence and the fact that prehistoric men have done it seems like an unarguable proof of it.

'Egypt, Greece and Rome'

Ancient Egypt, a civilization that is strongly connected to architecture and artistic forms, had many mural paintings in his temple and buildings. Often graphical, more symbolic than realistic in bold outline and flat, in which symmetry is a constant characteristic. Egyptian painting has close connection with its written language (see pictography) and painting had an essential role in their manuscripts (papyrus). In fact painted symbols are amongst the first forms of written language.
To the north of Egypt was the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. The wall paintings found in palaces such as of the Knosos are similar to that of the Egyptians. Around 1100 B.C., tribes from the north of Greece conquered Greece and the people there passed their artistic knowledge to the Greeks.
Ancient Greece had its great painters like it had great sculptors and architects, unfortunately no example of their work lasted to our days. What remains are written descriptions of their contemporaries or Roman copies. However vase painting can be as a surviving example of what Greek painting was. Some famous Greek painters who are referred in texts are Apelles, Zeuxis and Parrhasius.
Zeuxis lived in 5-6 BC and was said to be the first to use sfumato. His paintings are described to be highly realistic so much that Pliny the Elder wrote that birds tried to eat the grapes of his works.
Apelles is described to be the greatest painter of Antiquity for its perfect technique in drawing, brilliant colour and modeling.
Roman painting has no special character and has a resemblance of Greek painting and can be taken as a surviving example of what ancient Greece's painting was.

'Middle Ages'

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The rise of Christianity gave rise to a different spirit and aim to painting styles. Byzantium, or Byzantine art flourished after the fall the of Constantinople in East Roman Empire in 5th century. The main form of painting in Byzantine art is the icon, usually static religious figures in golden backgrounds. Byzantic painting has a particularly hieratic feeling and icons were and still are seen as a reflection of the divine.
Cimabue and Giotto are considered to be the two great medieval masters in painting in western culture. Cimabue, within the byzantine tradition, gave a more realistic and dramatic approach to his art. He was also the master of Giotto that lead this innovations to a higher level and made the foundations to western painting tradition.
An important form of painting in Middle Ages are illuminated manuscripts. This art was widely used until the invention of printing press and is now what is called illustration.
Romanesque and Gothic Styles were done mainly in monasteries in Italy and Northern Europe. There, monks made copies of Bibles and other books and made hand-made decorations with miniature paintings and other designs called illuminations. Walls of Romanesque churches were decorated with mosaics and frescoes and the few remainig murals today show these painters had a simple style of their religious art. The adoption of the Gothic styles and architecture in the north of Europe led the end to frescoes. Churches had more windows and stained glass with many colors become a staple in decoration. One of the most famous of these examples in the Notre Dame. By the 14th century the authority of the Church ended and painters found new patrons in the rich nobility. Illuminated manuscripts took on a new character and slim, fashionably dressed court women were shown in their landscapes. This style soon became known as International style and tempera panel paintings and altarpieces gained importance. The Gothic style never reached Italy.

'Renaissance and Mannerism'

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The Renaissance is said to be by many the golden age of painting. In Italy artists like Paolo Uccello, Piero della Francesca, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Raphael and Titian took painting to a higher level through the use of perspective, the study of human anatomy and proportion, and through their development of an unprecedented refinement in drawing and painting techniques.
Flemish and German painters of the Renaissance such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Matthias Grünewald, Hieronymous Bosch and Pieter Brueghel represent a different approach from their Italian colleagues, one that is more realistic and less idealized. The invention of oil painting, traditionally credited to Jan Van Eyck, made possible a new verisimilitude in depicting reality. Unlike the Italians whose work drew heavily fron the art of ancient Greece and Rome, the northerners retained a stylistic residue of the sculpture and illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages.
Renaissance painting reflects the revolution of ideas and science (astronomy, geography) that occur in this period, the Reformation, and the invention of the printing press. Dürer, considered one of the greatest of printmakers, states that painters are not mere artisans but thinkers as well. With the development of easel painting in the Renaissance, painting gained independence from architecture. Following centuries dominated by religious imagery, secular subject matter returned to Western painting as artists painted the world around them, or the products of their own imaginations. Those who could afford the expense could commission portraits of themselves or their family.
The late Renaissance gave rise to a stylized art known as Mannerism. In place of the balanced compositions and rational approach to perspective that characterized art at the dawn of the sixteenth century, the Mannerists sought instability, artifice, and doubt. The unperturbed faces and gestures of Piero della Francesca and the calm Virgins of Raphael are replaced by the troubled expressions of Pontormo and the emotional intensity of El Greco.

'Baroque and Rococo'

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Among the greatest painters of the Baroque are Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens, Velazquez and Vermeer. Caravaggio is an heir of the humanist painting of the Renaissance. His realistic approach to the human figure, painted directly from life and dramatically spotlit against a dark background, shocked his contemporaries and opened a new chapter in the history of painting.
Baroque painting often dramatizes scenes using light effects; this can be seen in works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Le Nain and La Tour.
Rococo followed as a decadent sub-genre of Baroque, lighter, often frivolous and erotic. The French masters Watteau, Boucher and Fragonard represent the style, as do Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Thomas Gainsborough.

'19th century: neo-classicism, romanticism, Impressionism'


After the decadence of Rococo there arose in the late 18th century an ascetic neo-classicism, best represented by such artists as David and his heir Ingres. Ingres' work already contains much of the sensuality, but none of the spontaneity, that was to characterize Romanticism.
This movement turned its attention toward landscape and nature as well as the human figure and the supremacy of natural order above mankind's will. There is a pantheist philosophy (see Spinoza and Hegel) within this conception that opposes Enlightenment ideals by seeing mankind's destiny in a more tragic or pessimistic light. The idea that human beings are not above the forces of Nature is in contradiction to Ancient Greek and Renaissance ideals where mankind was above all things and owned his fate. This thinking led romantic artists to depict ruined churches, shipwrecks, massacres and madness.
Romantic painters turned landscape painting into a major genre, considered until then as a minor genre or as a decorative background for figure compositions.
Some of the major painters of this period are Eugene Delacroix, J. M. W. Turner, Caspar David Friedrich and John Constable. Francisco de Goya's late work demonstrates the Romantic interest in the irrational, while the work of Arnold Böcklin evokes mystery.
Camille Corot painted sometimes as a romantic, sometimes as a realist who looks ahead to Impressionism. A major force in the turn towards realism at mid-century was Courbet. In the latter third of the century Impressionists like Monet and Degas and the slightly younger post-Impressionists like Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Paul Cezanne lead art up to the edge of modernism.

'Modern and Contemporary'

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The heritage of painters like Van Gogh, Cezanne and Gauguin was essential for the development of modern art. Picasso made his first cubist paintings based in the idea, created by Cezanne, that all depiction of nature can be reduced to three solids: cube, sphere and cone. After cubism several movements emerged; Futurism (Balla), Abstract (Kandinsky, Blaue Reiter, Mondrian), Suprematism (Malevich), Constructivism (Tatlin), Dadaism (Duchamp, Arp) and Surrealism (Dali, Ernst). Modern painting influenced all visual arts, from architecture to design and became an experimental laboratory in which artists stretched the limits of this medium to his extreme.
Van Gogh's painting had great influence in Expressionism which can be seen in Die Brücke, a group lead by German painter Ernst Kirchner and in Edvard Munch or Egon Schiele's work.
Post-second world war painting renewed Abstract art with artists like Jackson Pollock and Vieira da Silva and as a response to this tendence Pop-Art emerged with names like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, trying to take popular and mass culture into fine art. Modern art tends to undermine or oppose the traditional painting techniques and subjects, however, in the 20th century important painters continued to practice a figurative, solid technique painting with contemporary subjects like Edward Hopper, Balthus, Francis Bacon or Lucian Freud. These painters cannot be attached to the movements described above and can be seen as outsiders.

'Islamic Countries'

The depticion of humans, animals or any another figurative subjects is forbidden within Islam to prevent believers from idolatry so there is no religiously motivated painting (or sculpture) tradition within Muslim culture. Pictorial activity was reduced to Arabesque, mainly abstract, with geometrical configuration or floral and plant-like patterns. Strongly connected to architecture and calligraphy, it can be widely seen as used for the painting of tiles in mosques or in illuminations around the text of the holy Koran and other books. In fact abstract art is not an invention of modern art but it is present in pre-classical, barbarian and non-western cultures many centuries before it and is essentially a decorative or applied art. Notable illustrator M.C. Escher was influenced by this geometrical and pattern based art. Art Nouveau (Aubrey Beardsley and the architect Antonio Gaudi) re-introduced abstract floral patterns into western art.
Note that despite the taboo of figurative visualization, some muslim countries did cultivate a rich tradition in painting, though not in its own right, but as a companion to the written word. Iranian or Persian art, widely known as Persian miniature, concentrates on the illustration of epic or romantic works of literature. Persian illustrators deliberately avoided the use of shading and perspective, though familiar with it in their pre-islamic history, in order to abide by the rule of not creating any life-like illusion of the real world. Their aim was not to depict the world as it is, but to create images of an of an ideal world of timeless beauty and perfect order.
In present days, painting by art students or professional artists in arab and non-arab muslim countries follow the same tendencies of Western culture art.
See also Islamic art.
See also Persian miniature.
See also Arabesque.

'Far east'

China, Japan and Korea have a strong tradition in painting which is also highly attached to the art of calligraphy and printmaking (so much that it is commonly seen as painting). Far east traditional painting is characterized by water based techniques, less realism, "elegant" and stylized subjects, graphical approach to depiction, the importance of white space (or negative space) and a preference for landscape (instead of human figure) as a subject.
Late 19th century artists like the Impressionists, Van Gogh, James Ensor or Whistler admired traditional painters like Hokusai and Hiroshige and their work was influenced by it.
See also Chinese painting, Japanese painting, Korean painting.



The earliest Indian paintings were the rock paintings of prehistoric times, the petroglyphs as found in places like Bhimbetka, and some of them are older than 5500 BC. Such works continued and after several millennia, in the 7th century, carved pillars of Ellora, Maharashtra state present a fine example of Indian paintings, and the colours, mostly various shades of red and orange, were derived from minerals. Thereafter, frescoes of Ajanta and Ellora caves appeared. India’s Buddhist literature is replete with examples of texts which describe that palaces of kings and aristocratic class were embellished with paintings, but they have not survived. But, it is believed that some form of art painting was practiced in that time.
;Madhubani painting
Madhubani painting is a style of Indian painting, practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar state, India. The origins of Madhubani painting are shrouded in antiquity, and a tradition states that this style of painting originated at the time of the Ramayana, when King Janak commissioned artists to do paintings at the time of marriage of his daughter, Sita, with Sri Rama who is considered to be an incarnation of the Hindu god lord Vishnu.
thumb Rajput painting.]]
;Rajput painting
Rajput painting, a style of Indian painting, evolved and flourished, during the 18th century, in the royal courts of Rajputana, India. Each Rajput kingdom evolved a distinct style, but with certain common features. Rajput paintings depict a number of themes, events of epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Krishna’s life, beautiful landscapes, and humans. Miniatures were the preferred medium of Rajput painting, but several manuscripts also contain Rajput paintings, and paintings were even done on the walls of palaces, inner chambers of the forts, havelies, particularly, the havelis of Shekhawait.
The colours extracted from certain minerals, plant sources, conch shells, and were even derived by processing precious stones, gold and silver were used. The preparation of desired colours was a lengthy process, sometimes taking weeks. Brushes used were very fine.
;Mughal painting
Mughal painting is a particular style of Indian painting, generally confined to illustrations on the book and done in miniatures, and which emerged, developed and took shape during the period of the Mughal Empire 16th -19th centuries).
;Tanjore painting
Tanjore painting is an important form of classical South Indian painting native to the town of Tanjore in Tamil Nadu. The art form dates back to the early 9th Century, a period dominated by the Chola rulers, who encouraged art and literature. These paintings are known for their elegance, rich colours, and attention to detail. The themes for most of these paintings are Hindu Gods and Goddesses and scenes from Hindu mythology. In modern times, these paintings have become a much sought after souvenir during festive occasions in South India.
The process of making a Tanjore painting involves many stages. The first stage involves the making of the preliminary sketch of the image on the base. The base consists of a cloth pasted over a wooden base. Then chalk powder or zinc oxide is mixed with water-soluble adhesive and applied on the base. To make the base smoother, a mild abrasive is sometimes used. After the drawing is made, decoration of the jewellery and the apparels in the image is done with semi-precious stones. Laces or threads are also used to decorate the jewellery. On top of this, the gold foils are pasted. Finally, dyes are used to add colours to the figures in the paintings.
;Bengal school
The 'Bengal School of Art' was an influential style of art that flourished in India during the British Raj in the early 20th century. It was associated with Indian nationalism, but was also promoted and supported by many British arts administrators.
The Bengal school arose as an avant garde and nationalist movement reacting against the academic art styles previously promoted in India, both by Indian artists such as Ravi Varma and in British art schools. Following the widespread influence of Indian spiritual ideas in the West, the British art teacher Ernest Binfield Havel attempted to reform the teaching methods at the Calcutta School of Art by encouraging students to imitate Mughal miniatures. This caused immense controversy, leading to a strike by students and complaints from the local press, including from nationalists who considered it to be a retrogressive move. Havel was supported by the artist Abanindranath Tagore, a nephew of the poet Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore painted a number of works influenced by Mughal art, a style that he and Havel believed to be expressive of India's distinct spiritual qualities, as opposed to the "materialism" of the West. Tagore's best-known painting, Bharat Mata (Mother India), depicted a young woman, portrayed with four arms in the manner of Hindu deities, holding objects symbolic of India's national aspirations. Tagore later attempted to develop links with Japanese artists as part of an aspiration to construct a pan-Asianist model of art.
The Bengal school's influence in India declined with the spread of modernist ideas in the 1920s.

Modern Indian painting

According to Devajyoti Ray, the distinction between representing the real, the surreal and unreal in the media is getting blurred. Hence in 21st century media would be preoccupied with the creation of unreal imagery which would look real to the audience. Ray has classified a new style, Pseudorealism, where off-beat colors depict real life scenes.


African traditional culture and tribes do not seem to had great interest in two-dimensional representations in favour of Sculpture. However, decorative painting in African culture is often abstract and geometrical. Another pictorial manifestation is body painting, present for example in Maasai culture in their ceremony rituals. Note that Pablo Picasso and other modern artists were influenced by African sculpture in their styles.
Contemporary African artists follow western art movements and their paintings have little difference from occidental art works.

Aesthetics and theory of painting

Aesthetics tries to be the "science of beauty" and it was an important issue for 18th and 19th century philoshopers like Kant or Hegel. Classical philosophers like Plato and Aristotle also theorized about art and painting in particular; Plato disregarded painters (as well as sculptors) in his philosophical system, sustaining that a painting is a copy of reality (a shadow of the world of ideas so it cannot depict the truth) and is nothing but a craft, similar to shoemaking or iron casting.
Leonardo Da Vinci, on the contrary, said that "Pittura est cousa mentale" (painting is an intellectual thing), which is more accurate in defining the art of Painting, although there is an essential role of craft in it.
Kant identified Beauty with the Sublime, not referring particularly to painting, but this concept was taken by painters like Turner or Caspar David Friedrich.
Hegel recognized the failure of attaining a universal concept of beauty and in his aesthetic essay wrote that Painting is one of the three "romantic" arts, along with Poetry and Music for its symbolic, highly intellectual purpose.
Painters like Kandinsky or Paul Klee also wrote theory of painting. Kandinsky in its essay sustains that painting has a spiritual value also he attaches primary colours to essential feelings or concepts, something that writers like Goethe had already tried to do.
Iconography has also something to say about painting. The creator of this discipline, Erwin Panofsky, tries to analyse visual symbols in their cultural, religious, social and philosophical depth to attain a better comprehension of mankind's symbolic activity.
However Beauty, a concept of which Painting is essentially linked, cannot be defined as an objective matter, purpose or idea. Much aesthetics and theory of art is connected with painting.
In 1890, the Parisian painter Maurice Denis famously asserted: "Remember that a painting – before being a warhorse, a naked woman or some story or other – is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order." Thus many twentieth century developments in painting, such as Cubism, were reflections on the business of painting rather than on the external world, nature, which had previously been its core subject.
Julian Bell (1908-37), a painter himself, examines in his book What is Painting? the historical development of the notion that paintings can express feelings and ideas:
:Let us be brutal: expression is a joke. Your painting expresses – for you; but it does not communicate to me. You had something in mind, something you wanted to ‘bring out’; but looking at what you have done, I have no certainty that I know what it was....

Painting techniques

thumb Painting techniques include:
*Computer painting (Digital)
*New materials (painting)
*Pointillism (aka divisionism, 'stippling')
*Brush Painting
* (Partially) destructive techniques like grattage and peinture brulée, with which Joan Miró, among others, experimented.

Painting supports

*Panel painting
*Mural (Walls)

Painting media

Different types of paint are usually identified by the medium that the pigment is suspended or embedded in, which determines the general working characteristics of the paint, such as viscosity, miscibility, solubility, drying time, etc.
Examples include:
*Encaustic (wax)
**Heat-set oils
**Water miscible oil paints
*Pastel, including dry pastels, oil pastels, and pastel pencils
*Spray paint (Graffiti)

Popular painting styles

'Style' is used in two senses: It can refer to the distinctive visual elements, techniques and methods that typify an individual artist's work. It can also refer to the movement or school that an artist is associated with. This can stem from an actual group that the artist was consciously involved with or it can be a category in which art historians have placed the painter. The word 'style' in the latter sense has fallen out of favour in academic discussions about contemporary painting, though it continues to be used in popular contexts.
Painting styles
*Abstract expressionism
*Post-Abstract Expressionism
*Art Brut
*Color Field
*Naïve art
*Op art
*Pop art
*Post-painterly Abstraction
*Romantic realism
*Socialist realism

Common painting idioms

Painting idioms include:
*Body painting
*Figure painting
*Still life
Some other painting terms are:
Altarpiece, Broken Color, Cartoon, Composition, Drybrush, Easel Picture, Foreshortening, Genre, Halo, Highlights, History Painting, Imprimatura, Landscape, Madonna, Mahlstick, Miniature, Mural Painting, Palette, Panal Picture, Perspective, Pietá, Plein Air, Portrait, Stippling, Technique, Trompe l'oeil, Underpainting, Varnish, Wet-in-wet and Four-dimensional painting.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Painting".