Skip to content


Your cart is empty

History of Oil in Art

History of Oil in Art

There is news of the use of oil paints from the 6th century AD. However, at that time they were not used for artistic purposes as we do today. The first oil-based paintings (dating from 650 AD) have been found in Afghanistan, where they were used to paint objects similar to shields, used in ancient tournaments. Studies show that the purpose of adding oil to the pigments of these objects was to give greater durability to the colors, as they were exposed to high wear. At that time, the virtues of oil as an artistic material were not yet recognized; in fact, the "slow drying" property was seen as a disadvantage.

Use of Oil in Paintings

It was not until the 12th century that the monk Theophilus Presbyter created the first recipes detailing the preparation of oil-based and earth-colored paints, however, the development of the new material did not occur until the Renaissance, the 15th century. The painter Jan van Eyck was the pioneer in creating modern formulas and procedures to create oil pastes, which he used to paint his own paintings. The traditional artisan method of grinding pigments with a muller and mixing with oil is well documented in the 14th century by the Italian painter Cennino Cennini, who describes in detail the artisanal procedure that continues to our days and can be seen here:

Origin of the Tube Container for Oil Paints

The tin or lead tube packaging, in which oils are commonly stored today, was invented in 1841. The container replaced those used previously: pig bladders and glass syringes. Its use spread rapidly, the tube became the most practical and durable medium for storing fine pigments.