In art, there are many kinds of paints. Yet their structure has changed since antiquity. The oldest paint in history is tempera paint. As time passed, oil painting replaced the tempera as far back as the 8th century. However, not until the early 15th century did oil painting become widespread. The main difference between the tempera and oil paint was the binder of the coloring pigments. Tempera is bound by egg yolk, while the binder in the oil paint is plant-based oils such as flax, hemp, or almond, to name a few.
The secret of paints making
Flemish artists were among the first to employ oils, often mixing them with tempera. Italian painters followed them. According to scholars, the Dutch artist Jan van Eyck was the first who develops the secret of making oil paints. Early Dutch paintings of Van Eyck and Robert Campin, as well as the Italian Leonardo da Vinci, were the first to master those paints. The masters did it so well that they became a common painting medium and explored the use of layers and glazes.
Both tempera and oils can apply to various surfaces. The advantage of the slow-drying quality of oil paint is that the artist can develop their painting slowly. Earlier mediums, such as egg tempera, dry quickly, preventing the artist from making changes or adjustments. With oil-based paints, reworking was relatively easy. Mastery of painting is considered the pinnacle of creativity. The paints blended well with each other, making subtle variations of color possible, and creating lots of detail of light and shadow. Advances in oil paint allowed for much more intense, brighter, and more detailed images of people, landscapes, interiors, and objects.
The three-dimensional perspective
This first generation of early Dutch artists was interested in the genuine reproduction of objects, paying great attention to natural phenomena such as light, shadow, and reflection. The so-called “Flemish method” of oil painting is a multi-layered and challenging technique. The layering implies an intense depth of image and brilliance of color. They moved beyond the flat perspective and delineated the figuration of earlier paintings in favor of three-dimensional pictorial spaces. Viewers’ position and how they might relate to the scene became crucial for the first time; in Arnolfini Portrait, Van Eyck arranged the set as if the viewer had just entered the room containing the two figures. Hence, so many world-famous masterpieces are oil paintings.