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2 Things About Contemporary Oil Paintings

Updated on December 13, 2014

A Popular Medium

“2 Things” is a fun car trip game -- basically, name a subject and give the two most important aspects about it. And those things have to be the very most important things -- not just any two things you can think of. So when contemporary oil paintings was given as a subject, it started a wild conversation, since that’s a very broad and very interesting topic...

Oil has been a popular medium for artists for many centuries. Some of the most famous artists in history, including Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo Da Vinci, Claude Monet and Rembrandt, have created some of their most memorable works on oil. Yet painting is not something that is only of historical interest. Artists today are still creating amazing and original oil paintings. Let’s look at those two things about contemporary oil paintings.

1. Classic Paintings Were Once Contemporary

The paintings that we see hanging in museums today, such as the Mona Lisa, by Da Vinci, Sunflowers, by Van Gogh and Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Vermeer, were once contemporary paintings. Looking at such paintings now, they take on an almost mythical quality. The artists who painted them, however, were human beings who were trying to survive and succeed at their craft much like artists today.

This is important to realize because some of the oil paintings being created today will someday be considered timeless classics. It’s difficult to predict which ones, but by studying art you can make some educated guesses. The point is that paintings are not necessarily greater or more important simply because they were painting long ago. They only seem so through the lens of history.

2. Oil Paintings Have Distinctive Qualities

What makes oil paintings so popular? Oils have certain qualities that make them stand apart. For one thing, oils are thick. This gives an oil painting more texture than a work created with charcoal or watercolors. If you look closely at an oil painting, you can observe this thickness.

Art experts are able to analyze oil paintings in a way that’s difficult to do with other media. Brushstrokes, for example, are very distinctive with oils. This, along with an analysis of the colors used and the subject matter, provides clues to the artist’s intentions. In short, oil paintings reveal quite a bit of diversity and individuality compared to other types of art.

Talking Stick - oil on canvas
Talking Stick - oil on canvas | Source

Appreciating Contemporary Oil Paintings

There is much to appreciate in oil paintings from all eras. When admiring old masterpieces, we can rely on experts to tell us what is great. When looking at more contemporary oil paintings pieces, however, the jury is still in session. That gives us the opportunity to be our own art critics and decide for ourselves which oil paintings are destined to become tomorrow’s classics.


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