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The history of oil painting

Oil paint is composed of pigments (insoluble coloured substances) which are bound in a medium of drying oil such as linseed oil, nut oil, poppy oil  or safflower oil. These oils give oil paint its characteristic appearance and make it easy to apply. One feature of the technique is that it is possible to apply further layers of paint after drying (which, depending on the thickness of the layer, can take from several days up to several months) to obtain special effects of sheen. Unlike gouache or acrylic painting, oil paint on the canvas does not change much when it dries. This enables the artist to judge his painting much better while he/she is working on it. Once the painting is finished, a protective layer (varnish) is generally applied.

We know little about the origins of oil painting. First written documents mentioning the addition of oils to pigments can be found in Byzantine manuals such as the famous manual written by the artist-monk Theophilus. Renaissance painting in Florence around 1420 made oil painting the dominant artistic technique because painters could achieve the required mimetic effects. For a long time Jan van Eyck (around 1390-1441) was considered to be the inventor of oil painting, but we know today that he used a mixed technique, alternating layers of egg tempera with oil and resin varnishes.

From the 1920s on, Griebel used oil painting techniques. His early paintings were in the style of his teachers Rudolf Schiestl (1878-1931) and Hans Meid (1883-1957) as is obvious in his paintings of Berlin suburbs in the style of New Objectivity. He very quickly developed a picture language of his own which is reminiscent of surrealism and metaphysical painting, the movement of that time in Italy.