Painting is a traditional art form that includes the use of pigments suspended in various mediums, like oils or water. The art of painting can include a wide variety of styles and techniques, and is one of the oldest forms of artistic expression. Throughout history, paintings have portrayed many different subjects and have become a highly influential mode of artistic expression. Some of the most famous works of art are paintings, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and Vincent van Goh’s Starry Night. These classics demonstrate how a painting can transcend its mere mimetic function to convey emotional, psychological or even spiritual aspects of the human experience.
Before modern times, the craft of painting was largely controlled by cultural traditions of tribes, religions, guilds and royal courts, which influenced the style, subject matter and imagery of painting. These traditions also determined the status of painters, who were considered skilled artisans rather than creative artists. However, by the late 19th century, a new notion of art and the role of the painter evolved, with painters being seen as intellectuals who balanced manual skills with intellectual modes of apprehending the world.
The art of painting reflects the diverse nature of the human experience, so the subject of a painting can be anything from a landscape to a portrait or a still life. Some painters focus on realistic representations of the world, while others strive to create more abstract images. Realism is about capturing the appearance of an object or scene as it is to the eye, and this method has long been considered one of the highest forms of art.
Some painters, such as the Impressionists and Expressionists of the early 20th century, rejected realism and sought to express a more subjective interpretation of their subjects. Paintings produced by these artists often resembled impressionistic landscapes and used bold brush strokes, called impasto, to achieve the desired effect.
In addition, some painters focus on abstraction, in which the subject is interpreted as an amalgam of colors and shapes rather than as a precise representation of its individual components. This approach can take on a number of forms, from reducing the subject to its dominant colors, as in a Jackson Pollock drip painting, to using simplified lines and shapes like the flowers and shells of Georgia O’Keeffe.
The art of painting has also extended beyond the traditional canvas to include sculpture and photography, which are now referred to as mixed media. Some of these ideas combine organic materials with synthetics, and can be seen as a way to reinvent the traditional medium.