The Art of Painting

Painting is a visual art that consists of the practice of applying pigment, color or other medium to a surface such as canvas or paper with an implement such as a brush, although some painters use knives, sponges or airbrushes. Painting is a primary form of artistic expression that has been practiced by humans for millennia and has spawned some of history’s most iconic works, from Jan van Eyck portraits to Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece The Kiss. Painting has come to be defined by style, subject matter and technique as well as by broader cultural values that influence the content of a painting and its status in society.

The earliest examples of paintings are found in caves, with some evidence (used ochre) that the practice began at least 60,000 years ago in Arnhem Land, Australia and in the Grotte Chauvet caves in southern France. As the tools and mediums available to artists improved, painting moved from rock surfaces to walls, paper, fabric and canvas, and its subject matter expanded to include scenes of everyday life and religious and historical events.

In the past, tribal societies, religions, guilds and royal courts controlled the craft, form, imagery, and subject matter of painting and determined its function, whether ritualistic, decorative, entertaining, or educational. Painters were often skilled artisans rather than creative artists; and their work was more likely to be commissioned than made for personal enjoyment. By the Renaissance, however, a distinction developed between “fine” and other types of painting, with painters elevated to the status of scholars and courtiers and able to sign their work and determine its design and subject matter.

Today, painting is a flexible medium with broad expressive possibilities and a wide range of styles. It can be abstract or figurative, and it can incorporate mixed media or even 3-D objects. It can be applied to any flat surface, including canvas, paper, wood or metal. The paint used can be oil, acrylic or water-based, and it can contain any kind of binder. It can also be a variety of other materials such as clay, sand or glass, and the resulting work may be either realist or abstract.

In The Art of Painting, Vermeer shows his skill with linear perspective through the positioning of Clio’s hand and the position of the lines in her laurel wreath. In addition, he demonstrates the way in which an artist can portray calmness and serenity through the use of horizontal and diagonal lines. The painting is a subtle allegory of the artist’s own quest for immortality through his art, an idea that was commonly endorsed by the art theory of the day.