Art / Experimenting CLIL: school subjects in English

Techniques: Oil painting

The invention of oil painting has been attributed for a long time to the Hubert brothers and to Jan van Eyck, a Flemish painter. Actually, oil painting was already known by the Romans, who used it to decorate shields and weapons.

Oil painting uses colours made ​​by mixing pigments with oils and resins of various types. This type of technique, which requires a long drying time, allows the painter to add details during the drying time.

There isn’t only one way to paint in oil, and the results are different depending on the support used (table or canvas), the greater or lesser absorbency of the surface prepared, the greater or lesser density of the colours, the type of the brush (silk, sable or squirrel hairs). Here are some examples:



Over time, this painting technique has evolved and perfected. Sometimes painters try new combinations to find a better solution, and so  the styles of the various artists were born.

Jan van Eyck

The technique of Van Eyck is characterized by oil binders (linseed oil or walnut), mixed when hot with hard resins (amber and copal) and diluted with essential oils (lavender or rosemary) to give to the painting both a transparent glazes and nuance.


Leonardo reaches the plastic effects of light with subsequent layers, giving the painting that particular type of shade that is a distinctive feature of his paintings. He often used his fingers. His most famous oil painting is the Mona Lisa:

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh used colours mixed with wax and resin, so mellow that they had to be applied with a spatula.

The great revolution in oil painting takes place in the nineteenth century, when the industrial production of colours in a tube made the painter’s work easier: he can take everywhere with him the material necessary to paint.

However, colours in the tube would yellow easily once on the canvas, because of the abundance of oil added to avoid the drying of the colour.

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