playlist

Sticks & Stones: Linseed Oil

Each installment of our Sticks & Stones series presents the history, evolution, and unusual uses of a single material. You can find our article about linseed oil at my.meural.com/editorial/58.

For as long as people have painted, the issue of how to portray light has been at the form’s center. The story of painting has essentially been of the struggle between the opaque, mineral material of paint and the glowing sense of light artists hope to create. The appearance of inner luminosity can be mimicked, to a limited degree, by an artist’s placement of light and dark tones side by side. But it is ultimately dependent on the complex interactions between layered colors as outside light strikes them.

Oil paint is made by mixing finely ground pigment with a binding oil to help it adhere to the canvas or board. Linseed oil is a drying oil—it can polymerize into a solid form without changing other physical characteristics, such as color or texture. It can also be used as a painting medium—added to thick, mixed paint to make it more fluid, transparent, and glossy. When the amount of linseed oil exceeds the amount of pigment in the mixture being applied, it is considered a glaze. The introduction of linseed oil glazes was one of the most significant factors in moving oil painting forward.

Note: The works in this playlist are believed to have been made with linseed oil; art historians can conjecture with confidence, but not certainty.

Works

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Girl Interrupted at Her MusicJohannes Vermeer, c. 1658–1661
Girl Interrupted at Her Music
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An Artist in His StudioJohn Singer Sargent, 1904
An Artist in His Studio
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Carnation, Lily, Lily, RoseJohn Singer Sargent, 1885
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
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Luncheon of the Boating PartyPierre-Auguste Renoir, c. 1880–1881
Luncheon of the Boating Party
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La GrenouillèrePierre-Auguste Renoir, 1869
La Grenouillère
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Le Moulin de la GalettePierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876
Le Moulin de la Galette
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The Death of ActaeonTitian Vecellio, c. 1559–1575
The Death of Actaeon
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The Virgin Suckling the Infant ChristTitian Vecellio, c. 1565–1575
The Virgin Suckling the Infant Christ
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The Tribute MoneyTitian, c. 1516
The Tribute Money
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The Lovesick MaidenJan Steen, 1660
The Lovesick Maiden