Lecture: An Overview of Fine Art Painting
And Technology

The history of painting from the Renaissance to current times has evolved from many sociological events and technological developments. Here I will focus on only some of the major technologies from the development of oil paint to computers.

Oil Paint 1400's - The development and use of oil paint became popular in 1400, it is generally credited to artists and their desire to create realism in their art. This technological development of oil paint changed how art could be produced. It superseded the fresco (egg tempera) technique of mixing pigment, egg and plaster. The invention of the hand held camera, acrylic paints and computers were other technological advancement milestones in the evolution of painting.

Jan van Eyck (and Studio Apprentices)

Jan van Eyck (and Studio Apprentices)
The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment
Oil on canvas, transferred from wood    22 1/4 x 7 3/4 in (each panel)  ca.  1430

Photography 1800's - Photographic permanent images were invented in the 1800's and had dramatic impact on both traditional and impressionist paintings as artists began working from photographic images as references. In the late 1960's the Photorealism movement abandoned the observation of their surroundings and painted exact replications of photo images. This can be seen in the work of Richard Estes considered to be the leading artist in the Photorealism movement. The use of photography in painting is still a vital part of an artists toolbox.

Richard Estes Ralph's Diner (1981-1982), Oil on canvas

Acrylic 1950's - Acrylic paints were developed in Mexico in the 1950's and adopted into the Abstract Expressionism art movement of the 1960's. This quick drying quality of the paint was well suited to the quick energized brushwork by many of the artists of the day. You can see how the quick drying immediacy of acrylic paint was an advantage to the way that De Kooning worked. Acrylic paint has become the leading media of painters today due to it being easier to clean up and it does not have the fumes of oils. The acrylic colors have a different color sensibility, the color is seen as more of surface plastic color where as oil color is seen to have greater depth and subtlety to its hues.

Willem De Kooning -  Woman V

Willem De Kooning -  Woman V
Oil / Charcoal / Canvas 5’ x 3’ 9"
1974

Personal Computers 1970's - The advent of computers has impacted painting and art dramatically. For now we are only talking about its impact on painting. Computers have given us other ways to interpret and manipulate images. We can see this in the simple pixels of a digital square that can be assigned a variable color value, multiplied by millions to create vividly detailed images to paint programs that can simulate paint strokes. Take a look at Chuck Close's work and you can see the impact of how we can see images.

Chuck Close - Bill Clinton, 2006

Chuck Close - Bill Clinton, 2006