Painting is the activity of applying paint or another medium to a solid surface – usually canvas – in order to create a visual representation of a scene or subject. The practice is often associated with the creation of a picture or figure, but it can also involve abstract imagery and symbolism. Painting may also be used in the context of other art forms, including sculpture, printmaking, drawing and mixed media.
Painting has evolved over the centuries to incorporate a wide range of styles and techniques. Some of these are traditional, while others are unconventional or innovative. Regardless of the style or technique, each painting is created with the intent of conveying a particular message to the viewer.
The history of painting began with cave paintings and continued as artists developed the tools and mediums to depict a wider array of subjects. Paintings grew from the simple, instructional images on cave walls to pictures that depicted people and their activities, natural landscapes and mythological or religious scenes.
In the beginning, painting was a way to record events and memories. As the technology advanced, it became a tool for storytelling and an expression of the artist’s mood or philosophy. Many early paintings were found in caves and were thought to be a part of rituals designed to attract good hunting, promote fertility, ward off danger or provide symbolic language for ideas and feelings.
Over time, as the practice of painting became more refined, it was combined with other arts such as architecture and sculpture to achieve a greater level of realism. Throughout the centuries, painting has been influenced by religion, politics, social upheavals and scientific advancements. Several movements in the history of painting such as Impressionism, Post-impressionism and Cubism have sought to change the perception of what constitutes “painting” by breaking away from the idea that it should capture reality with the highest degree of likeness possible.
Modern art has expanded the concept of what a painting can be by incorporating other materials such as metal, plastic and even sand or cement into the work. There are also a number of painters who use digital software to create their artwork rather than using a brush.
The most common type of painting uses a portrait as its subject. This can be a single individual or a group of individuals. Other types of subjects include landscape, genre, or urbanscape. A popular genre in the Renaissance was veduta, which is a form of cityscape painting. This style is often highly detailed and the artists who produced this type of painting are referred to as Vedutists. Unlike landscape and urbanscape paintings, the main focus in genre painting is an everyday scene such as workers going about their daily activities or a banquet being held.