Acrylic Painting
History, Techniques, Advantages of Paints Developed by Dr. Otto Rohm.

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Acrylic Painting

Acrylics appeared in the 1940s and have been adopted by many modern painters, in all painting genres, for their fast drying qualities and permanence. Because, while oil paint remains the dominant medium, its slow-drying and lack of permanence (museum curators do not consider an oil painting to be fully dry for over 50 years) can be exceptionally frustrating for professional artists.

In addition to being quick-drying, acrylic paint is also extremely versatile. For example, it can be used for a multiplicity of fine art painting styles. Also, like watercolour, it can be applied in the thinnest of glazes, or like oils, it can be applied more thickly in layers, or even impasto direct from the tube. Moreover, improvements to the quality and range of available acrylic pigments have greatly enhanced the richness and tonality achieveable. Lastly, unlike oil paint, it doesn't crack, and unlike watercolours it doesn't fade.


For a list of masterpieces, see:
Greatest Paintings Ever.
For interpretation, see:
Famous Paintings Analyzed.

To learn how to read a painting
see: How to Appreciate Paintings.

Definitions, forms, styles, genres,
periods, see: Types of Art.

Acrylic paint is applied most commonly to stretched canvas or paper, although since it is capable of adhering to virtually any non-greasy surface, it can also be painted on wood, stone, glass, or textiles. Acrylics are also used in nail painting - see: Nail Art. Most acrylic artists utilize synthetic brushes designed specially for this type of paint, not least because acrylics dry quickly and permanently, ruining regular brushes very easily. For this reason some artists use paper or other disposable palettes, as dried paint can be hard to remove.

The principal drawback of acrylics as a fine art medium is the rather shiny 'look and feel.' If and when manufacturers manage to solve this problem, acrylics might even displace oil paint and the primary medium for fine artists.

History of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic resin was first invented by the German chemist Dr. Otto Rohm. In due course, this invention was applied to paint by Bocour Artists Colors, Inc. who launched a narrow range of acrylic paints in a turpentine solution which could be mixed with oils. This led to experimentation in acrylics by artists like the colourist Kenneth Noland, the Russian-born large-scale artist Mark Rothko, the Abstract Expressionist Barnett Newman and the Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstien.

Further developments during the 1950s and 1960s began to attract other famous painters to acrylics, like the Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko, the Pop-art artist Andy Warhol, the Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell, British Op-Art painter Bridget Riley and the brilliant English draughtsman and Pop painter David Hockney.

Note About Acrylic Colours
For details of colour pigments, along with hues and other dyes used in acrylics through the ages, see: Colour in Painting.


• For an explanation of modern works, see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).
• For information about acrylic paints, see: Homepage.

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