The development of oil paint as the most common medium for oil paintings in Europe evolved slowly in the fifteenth century. Before this, a popular medium for painting on panel had been egg tempera, but it did not have the flexibility of pigments bound with a drying oil. Oil paint also had the capacity to be blended and manipulated on the surface of the abstract paintings, and its transparency allowed for a far greater range of tones and resonant colors.
The transition from egg tempera to oil paint in Northern Europe, and then in Italy toward the end of the fifteenth century, produced many examples of oil paintings in which the preliminary work was done in egg tempera, while later stages, such as thin transparent glazes, were applied in oil color. There are also examples of works in which egg and oil are contained in the same layer. Although the Dutch van Eyck brothers are popularly credited with the discovery of oil painting in the early fifteenth century — Jan van Eyck made progress developing the oil medium and using glazes — the use of oil-resin varnishes and drying oils is in fact quite well documented since the eighth century. Painters in Italy began to copy the Netherlandish way of modeling the underpainting in opaque colors, and then applying rich transparent glazes.
The progress of original paintings Fifteenth-century Italy saw artists such as Piero della Francesca whose early work is predominantly in egg tempera, coming to abstract painting with the new oil medium. In Venice, Giovanni Bellini began to exploit the depth and richness of tone and color that could be had with oil painting. He often worked first on an egg tempera underpainting, with its characteristic cross-hatched modeling, but the use of oil in the later stages of painting gave his figures an almost tangible existence. Perugino and Raphael were among other artists of the time working in both media. Raphael sustained the purity of the whites and blues in his skies by using the less yellowing walnut oil as a binding medium, rather than the linseed oil he used with other colors.
Original Paintings created before the 20th century were largely figurative — using artistic conventions such as perspective, they offered convincing pictures of the world as we knew it. Contemporary abstract paintings is often more emphasizing colors, shapes and textures, which results in more attention being focused on the picture surface itself. This has resulted in an extraordinary period of experimentation in which artists have used a huge range of materials to produce an exciting array of mixed media works.
By abstract painting artists have concentrated on generating a new awareness of surface and have succeeded by sale adding materials, by using impasto techniques, and by scraping and inscribing a surface to amplify the characteristics of each medium.