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Tracing pigments - A history of paints.

Tracing pigments - A history of paints.

Importance of paints is irreplaceable in the art world. Ever wondered where these colours came from?

Artists in the prehistoric era used primitive paints made from coloured rocks, earth, bone, and minerals. These materials were ground into powders, and mixed with egg or animal byproducts to bind the solution and make paint. First used in prehistoric cave paintings, red ochre is one of the oldest pigments still in use. All paints generally have four main ingredients -- pigments, binders, solvents and additives. Pigments provide colour and hide, while binders work to hold it all together to create the final paint. 

Around the 15th century, egg as a binding agent for paints was replaced by oils, which completely transformed painting. Later the intense blue was created using the mineral lapis lazuli and the colour quickly infiltrated European palettes. These colours were so expensive that artists like Vermeer were left in debt after buying the paints and Michelangelo left some of his paintings unfinished. 

Over a period of time many more artificial colours were introduced. The new chemical processes started to drive prices down. The use of paint continued to increase and manufacturers of industrial paints began to make emulsions, glossy enamel, and house paints. Acrylic paint was invented in the 1940s and again transformed painting, quickly replacing oil in everyday paint. Acrylic paint was water-based, cheap, held colour well and dried quickly.

Colour can either change the mood of a piece or conjure a specific meaning for the viewers. The development of paint and the subsequent assemblage of pigments over time opened up innumerable possibilities for artists and allowed them to express themselves and their imagination better.

Cover image: Convergence by Jackson Pollock, Oil on Canvas (1952)

Lets see if some colours are more popular with our Art and Charlie community than others.

What is your favourite colour in paintings? Drop a comment below

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