Most artists don’t appreciate how handy the paint tube is. It lets you transport your paints anywhere. Most artists don’t realise how big a role the paint tube played throughout the history of art. Here’s some more information on why the paint tube is important:
- Before the paint tube
We take it for granted that our paint comes in handy tubes because that wasn’t always the case. It was only in the 19th century that the paint tube was invented. American painter John Goffe Rand is credited with having invented a tin tube sealed with a screw cap that allowed for oil paint to be stored and transported without it drying out and becoming unusable. Before that, artists would have to mix their own paints and store them in pig bladders. The bladder would be tied up then pricked with a tack to release the paint; in 1822 English painter James Hams invented the glass syringe with a plunger to squeeze the paint out. The paint tube then came along and was by far the most convenient way to store and transport paint.
- Plein air painting
The invention of the paint tube made it a lot easier for artists to venture outdoors to work. Plein air painting, the practise of going outdoors to paint the world as you see it, took off in popularity because of the paint tube. Artists did go outside to work before the paint tube was invented, though plein air painting became a lot more accessible thanks to the paint tube, which was a much better and more convenient option than pig bladders which could very easily burst open.
Impressionism is an art movement that started in the 19th century. It originated in Paris in the late 19th century, around the same time that plein air was gaining popularity. Impressionism is characterised by thin brushstrokes that were applied rapidly; the subject matter is scenes from typical urban and suburban life. Movement of some sort very often featured. Light and the different effects it had throughout the day was also a key component of Impressionist paintings. Impressionism grew to become one of the major art movements and has had a vast influence on modern art. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, a leading French Impressionist painter said, ‘without tubes of paint, there would have been no Impressionism’.
One of the best things about the invention of the paint tube is that it paved the way for lots more colours to be used. Paints, especially oil paints, took a long time to produce, so it was common practice for artists to only produce a few colours to work with. Artists who painted outdoors would only be able to take a few colours with them and would usually work on one area of a painting per session. With paint tubes and the invention of loads more pigments, artists could take all the colours they wanted with them when they painted outdoors. They could also complete each painting in a single sitting because they had all the paint they needed right there with them.
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