Painting has been a prestigious and popular medium, and form of expression, for many thousands of years. This popularity has undergone challenges; in ancient Greece, for example, verbal or literary expression was at times seen as a more enduring medium than painting (White 86). Nonetheless, and certainly since the Renaissance and the adoption of oils, painting consistently enjoys positive response, and the reasons are basic. In plain terms, only the medium of oils allows for a literally limitless number of colors, and consequently artistic effects. Oils permit a Vermeer or van Eyck to create light that is strikingly realistic, just as the same medium permits the artist to faithfully recreate virtually any scene in nature, or the most realistic image of the human form and face.
Painting’s popularity is certainly also based an associations with great artistic achievement: “The medium of oil painting has historically functioned as the paragon of high art” (Vacche 3). At the same time, the medium is accessible, just as the mechanics involved tend to promote good feeling in the painter. Beyond this, however, painting is popular because, even as it is inherently two-dimensional, it is an extremely rich medium. Textures, oils, and brush strokes may create new worlds so in-depth, it is felt that reality itself is being presented, or abstract ideas equally compelling. Done well, painting draws in the viewer as no other medium can, and this is due as well to the knowledge of the work as personally created.
- Vacche, Angela Dalle. The Visual Turn: Classical Film Theory and Art History. Piscataway: Rutgers University Press.
- White, Benjamin L. Remembering Paul: Ancient and Modern Contests over the Image of the Apostle. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print.