Oil as Paint

March 23 – June 22, 2013

Perkins Gallery

While the genesis of oil painting is most commonly associated with the Renaissance, the earliest examples of oil paintings are Buddhist murals, dating to around 650 AD, found in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan caves. The paintings are most likely to be the works of artists traveling on the Silk Road, which was the largest trade and cultural route connecting the East and the West.

Oil painting did not become very popular, though, until the Renaissance when it began to replace tempera painting. During the Renaissance, artists mixed their own paints, combining oils with raw pigments from substances that they often ground themselves. Because of the difficulty of making the paint, artists were largely confined to their studios. All this changed, however, in 1841 when oil paint began to be mass produced in small, portable tubes. This new convenience allowed the artists to leave their studios and allowed for the spontaneity of the plein air painting of French Impressionism.

Since that time, oil painting has remained a very popular medium because of its affordability and accessibility. This exhibition features a selection of oil paintings from the Museum’s Permanent Collection.