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Impact of Religion on Oil Painting: From Origins to Renaissance

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Impact of religion on oil painting art: Let's start from the origins

Painting experts helped write this material and for more details on this topic can be found here: https://ukrainianvintage.com/collections/mythology


Religion and art form a kind of mutual assistance between them - artists tried to capture the ideal world in paintings, thereby using various techniques and genres. Thus, art with the advent of the first oil paintings began to form a kind of connection of the viewer to convey a "beautiful and perfect life", which brought a transition from reality to a fictional world through the canvases. This push occurred during the Renaissance - artists sought to create idealized images that represented the ideal form of human beauty, harmony and perfection. They turned to ancient sources, studied anatomy, perspective and chiaroscuro to create works that looked more realistic and at the same time ideal. An example of an oil painting from that era can be seen in Sandro Botticelli's “Primavera” - it depicts beautiful ideal figures, which symbolizes spring and the renewal of nature. The artist uses bright oil colors and graceful brush lines to depict symbolic details in an oil painting - this creates an impression of complete beauty and harmony between man and nature.

Thus, art, like religion, elevates us, but if we take only the aesthetic feeling, then it tends to convey primarily an artistic depiction of the ideal world. And religious painting through oil paintings, in turn, strives to show living communication with God - the source of all perfection. The aesthetic feeling, influenced by the contemplation of the artist’s oil paintings or the beauty of nature depicted in it, creates the illusion of the kinship of our soul to the higher world; religious feeling opens our soul to the possibility of living communication with God through prayer and icons - this is how the genre of icon painting appeared.


It turns out that art gave birth to religion? Art, as the creative potential of the people, contributed to the emergence of religion, and religion stimulated the development of art - such is the paradox.




As a famous artist said: “in pre-class society, artistic creativity was the only form of practical-spiritual activity in which religious creation could be embodied. This means that it was not religion that gave birth to art, but, on the contrary, religious consciousness and religious rituals arose on the basis and in the process of man’s artistic and imaginative exploration of the world.” In the distant past, the church itself condemned and did not accept art in all its directions, if it did not concern faith and the image of God. Thus, we come to the genre of icon painting - painting is based on the interpretation of the Biblical story and is addressed to the sensory experience of a person, which motivates the viewer to pray.

Windows to the Divine: The Iconography of Faith


Icon painting itself means, as an independent easel work, it can be executed either in oils, paints, or made of wood - this distinguishes it from other orders of the church in forms of art (murals in temples, books, stories, frescoes, etc.). Icons can be found both in churches and at home, or they can be taken out for crusades on holidays and religious days.


The peculiarity of icons is in its iconography and style - first of all, the question is raised what the plot should be, a topic touching on a certain rhetoric that will educate a person in terms of faith. Also, one should not forget about the faces of sacred people or Deities, and for their actions, objects and surroundings - this is all a compositional competent decision, which results in a unique iconic symbolism, inspiring and comforting believers with its deep spiritual power. Icon painting is also characterized by recognizable compositional schemes and symbolic elements that help believers easily recognize the scenes and figures depicted. An important aspect is the use of certain color palettes and stylized forms that convey the spiritual depth and sacredness of the depicted subjects - this creates a special atmosphere of worship and contemplation, facilitating immersion in the mystical world of spiritual reality.

Religion and oil painting, what do they have in common?


Having understood what iconography is, we can assume that traditional oil painting is on the sidelines, and we will answer this question in advance - no. The art of oil painting often uses religious themes as a way to convey certain thoughts, feelings and emotions - these can be either indirect or direct.


In the oil paintings of the artist Boris Serdyuk, you can notice that in his landscapes he often depicts churches and monasteries, as well as religious holidays. The canvases not only reflect the external architectural details of churches and the surrounding environment, but also convey an atmosphere of spiritual peace, holiness and tranquility - this is achieved with the help of warm shades of light, soft brush strokes and harmonious composition. Such oil landscapes evoke reminders of eternal values and spiritual heritage that are passed down from generation to generation - they can be a source of inspiration for self-reflection and spiritual development of a person, which is precisely characteristic of icon painting.




Let's consider another example, only of another artist Alexander Litvinov and his oil painting “Portrait of Jesus Christ” - it depicts not only the physical appearance of Jesus Christ, but also seeks to convey his spiritual essence and the teaching of man to believe in good things. All this is achieved with the help of artistic techniques, such as chiaroscuro, color scheme, composition - Litvinov creates an image that not only draws attention to the physical features of the face, but also inspires the viewer with a sense of greatness, kindness and wisdom. In every brushstroke lies the artist’s desire to convey the depth and transcendental meaning of Jesus Christ as the central figure of Christianity.




Drawing conclusions, we find common elements between religion and oil painting - paintings become not only a means of visual expression of what is happening, but also a powerful tool for conveying spiritual truths and values that are important for believers, and inspire ordinary people to soulful reflection and meditation . Religion and oil painting strive to be expressed not in an abstract form, as is done in philosophy and science, but in a concrete image of expression.

Symbols - a portal between religion and painting


Before an artist begins to create a composition for his oil painting, it is important to have a deep understanding of the meaning of symbols and symbolism that are associated with religious themes. All this knowledge will help the artist convey spiritual truths in the painting - in religion, as in art, a pure idea is clothed through the veil of an image, which makes a person feel and participate in the contemplation of the idea of ​​a given work. For example, the image of a cross can symbolize the sacrifice of Christ and his redemptive action, and the image of the Lamb of God - his sacrifice for the sins of the world. Symbols such as the dove, bread, and wine can allude to the Holy Spirit, the Eucharist, and other holy themes of Christianity.


The artist can also resort to the rules of the lighting source, which are used in religious art (icon painting) to convey the desired shade of the painting, for example, there are no falling shadows, and the cut-off modeling of volumes is simplified or completely absent. To create volume, the artist turns to the use of special shading or tone for his oil painting, for example, the composition “Pantocrator” - the image of Jesus Christ as the Almighty, sitting on a throne and holding a book or globe in his hand.




Drawing conclusions, knowledge of the symbols and symbolism of religious painting helps the artist to create a work of art that will be properly structured in composition, as well as rich in spiritual content that can inspire and enrich believers. As the artist said: “The replacement of a religious feeling with an aesthetic one is a deep and harmful perversion, called “charm” in asceticism.”

Where to buy religious oil paintings?


After reading this, you may wonder where would be the best place to purchase an oil painting in the religious genre. The answer is simple - online stores and online platforms - on sites such as eBay, Etsy, Artfinder - you can find a choice of many paintings including religious themes. The examples of oil paintings from this text can be viewed in the Ukrainian Vintage Co store, both on the above sites and on their own. The advantage of online platforms is that they have a large selection of different genres and during the purchase you can immediately look at the characteristics and estimate where the painting will hang in your home.

If you need oil paintings by more famous artists, then auctions or antique stores will help with this; you can also find rare copies of works of art there.


Don't forget to visit local galleries and exhibitions - talk to the artist live and there is a chance that he will be able to offer paintings that are not available in stores or marketplaces.


When choosing an oil painting, you need to remember that every genre, like landscape, mythology or the same religion - it should evoke emotions, and only then you will understand - this is what you were looking for and will be a worthy decoration for your home.



Caring for religious oil paintings: Considering important points


As soon as you have purchased an oil painting, it is time to move on to the important aspect of caring for and removing dust from the work of art. You want the painting to look decent and last for many years without losing the quality of the paint? Any care for oil paintings, no matter what genre it is, is the same everywhere, and therefore, we will use the general rules that are needed for proper cleaning.


Where to start:


1) To begin with, you need to take into account the age of the painting - this determines whether the layers of paint have dried or not. Such oil paintings are considered to be less than a year old - they are young, and in order for the hardening to take place without consequences, it is necessary to ensure uniform drying of the canvas. In this case, the painting needs to be hung in a warm room where there is ventilation, but you cannot place/hang the painting in direct sunlight, this will not help speed up the drying process, but on the contrary, it will only result in peeling of the paint - take this point into account, because this also applies to old paintings. This point is relevant if you know that this painting just came from the artist.


2) Do light cleaning - this means removing dust from the front side of the oil painting, and you must use a clean pad or mittens made of velvet or flannel - a material that absorbs dust. The surface is swept in one direction, and the pressure on the painting should be minimal so as not to damage the painting. To clean the dust, you should not use brushes, feathers, flutes, as they can scratch the surface of the oil painting; in addition, these objects do not collect dust, but scatter them in the air, which will settle back to the surface in a few minutes. It is strictly forbidden to wipe the paint layer with an excessively damp cloth or remove dust with a vacuum cleaner - this will cause severe damage to the painting.


3) To remove more severe dirt, you need to use a slightly damp cloth or wipe the oil painting with cotton pads. If the paintings have cracks in the paint layer, this method cannot be used - it will cause even more damage. If a damp cloth does not help, then you can use a soap solution, which should not be alkaline, but, for example, for children.


4) To remove dust from the oil painting on the reverse side, you can use the same pads and velvet mittens, or a short-bristled flute. Movement on the canvas should be light so as not to damage it, and for additional protection from dust, the reverse side of the canvas can be secured with cardboard or craft paper, so dust will not settle on the canvas. If you don’t want to cover the inscriptions on the back side of the canvas, the backdrop can be made of transparent plastic. And remember that the back side of the canvas cannot be wetted with water - this will lead to further peeling of the paint primer and its subsequent crumbling.


Following these rules, an oil painting will live for a long time and decorate your room with its composition, and please note, if the painting has serious damage or a large layer of dirt, it is better to contact a specialist who can restore or clean it. And you don’t have to worry that something will happen to the painting while removing a large layer of dirt.






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