How Painting Has Changed Since the Stone Age 

Subject: Art
Type: Critical Analysis Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 875
Topics: Art History, Architecture, Modernism

Painting is one of the oldest art forms, dating back to the prehistoric times. As a medium of art, painting has undergone significant changes since the hieroglyphics of the Stone Age era through the Romanesque Era, Renaissance era up to the color field and action painting of the contemporary times. The radical changes in painting over time are particularly attributed to the evolution of painting to fit the diverse needs of the time (Hartt, 2013). This paper critically discusses how painting as a medium of art has evolved over time since the Stone Age era.

Painting in the Stone Age era was characterized by cave paintings, hieroglyphics and rock painting. The Stone Age era painters mainly utilized naturally occurring pigments of carbon black, charcoal, red iron oxide as well as calcite white mixed with animal fat, water or plant oil to enable them creates elaborate painting depictions in cave walls and stones. The techniques used in applying the earliest forms of painting included brushing, dabbing, smearing and spraying. For example, feathers, twigs and animal hair brushes were used for purposes of paint application (Read, Tisdall & Feaver, 2014). 

On the other hand, spraying of the paints was mainly done through hollow animal bones. Generally, Stone Age painting was quite flat as they lacked 3 dimensional shading with the figures depicted in either frontal, composite or profile views. Some of the famous remains of Stone Age Painting include the cave paintings of Lascaux (France) and Altamira (Spain). Mesopotamia and Egyptian Paintings were mainly found in tombs deep inside the pyramids. The painting included pictures of hunters in their activities. Unlike the prehistoric painting this ones were very carefully and accurately painted. Mesopotamians had ceramics that contained decorative patterns. Water color washes were used for centuries in these paintings.

During Romanesque Era, painting underwent a number of significant changes. The paintings during this period were heavily influenced by the Hellenistic (Greek) paintings. Panel painting was particularly common during the Romanesque. Generally, the pain painting changes witnessed during this period included the introduction of icon panel paintings, book illuminations and religious fresco murals. The paintings were very detailed with every part carefully outlined from drapery detail to patterns of the floor. The use of oil invented during the time improved painting work enormously enabling such little details to be added. Among the contributors on oil painting was the Flemish Artist Van Eyck; he used glazers to build up a picture.

The Renaissance period also witnessed a number of changes in painting as a medium of art. According to Arnason & Mansfield (2016), the introduction of new kinds of color pigments and oil paints significantly increased both the contrast and brightness of the paintings during the renaissance Era. Some of painting techniques adopted during this period include panel painting such as tempera on wood and opaque paints (illuminated texts). Oil paints were particularly first used in panel painting during the renaissance era. 

In addition, numerous painting techniques were developed during this period some of which included sfumato which involves expression of a gradual fade out between an object and its background as seen in the works of Leonardo da Vinci as well as chiaroscuro which is characterized by strong contrasts between light and darkness as seen in the works of Rembrandt van Rijin. Generally, renaissance paintings were characterized by balance and harmony in terms of forms, proportions, colors, shades and light effects. Masaccio was among the first artists of this generation, he revolutionized painting by incorporating figurines in his painting to form an impression of a landscape going far back. Masaccio introduced the three dimensional view in painting. Sandro Botticelli introduced effects of movement in the way he painted the Primavera. The movement of the dancers could be perceived. 

The 19th century saw the adoption of new painting techniques which placed more importance on the aesthetic appeal of the paintings and their emotional connection. Painters particularly mined dream imagery and mythology to inspire evocative paintings. Modern 20th century paintings witnessed the experimentation of painting with new ideas and materials to enhance abstraction. The main painting artists during this period included Georgia O’Keeffe and Salvador Dali. According to Benjamin (2008), the contemporary art has seen a number of changes in painting which are mainly attributed to the introduction of modern visual art techniques such as digital imaging.

In conclusion, painting as a medium of art has undergone significant changes from the Stone Age era through the Romanesque Era and up to contemporary times. Many of the changes can be attributed to advances in technology as well as the changing needs of the time. Over the years, the introduction of new painting techniques and new color pigments has resulted in a significant increase of both the contrast and brightness of the paintings.

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  1. Arnason, H. H., & Mansfield, E. (2016). History of modern art. London: Thames and Hudson publishing.
  2. Benjamin, W. (2008). The work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility, and other writings on media. Harvard University Press.
  3. Hartt, F. (2013). Art: A history of painting, sculpture, architecture (Vol. 1). New York: Abrams publishing.
  4. Read, H., Tisdall, C., & Feaver, W. (2014). A concise history of modern painting (p. 292). London: Thames and Hudson.
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