Painting is one of the oldest and most important arts. Since prehistoric times, artists have arranged paints on surfaces in way that express their idea about people and the world. The paintings that artists create have great value for humanity. They provide people with both enjoyment and information.
People enjoy painting for many reasons. They may think a painting in beautiful. People may like the colors that the painter used or the way the artist arranged the paint on the surface. Some paintings interest people because of the way the artist expresses some human emotion, such as fear, grief, happiness, or love. Other paintings are enjoyable because they skillfully portray nature. Even paintings of such everyday scenes as people at work and play and of such common objects as food and flowers can be a source of pleasure.
Paintings also teach. Some reveal what the artist felt about important subject, including death, love, religion, and social justice. Other paintings tell about the history of the period during which they were created. They provide information about the custom, goals, and interests of the people of past societies. Painting also tell about such things as the building, clothing, and tools of the past. Much of our knowledge about prehistoric and ancient times comes from painting and other arts, because many early societies left few or no written records. It would be hard to find a subject that no one has ever tried to paint. Artists paint the things they see around them-people, animals, nature, and nonliving objects. They also paint dreamlike scenes that exist only in the imagination. An artist can reach back into the past and paint a historical event, a religious story, or a myth. Some artists paint pictures that show no clear subject matter at all. Instead, they arrange the paint in some abstract way that expresses feeling or ideas that are important to them.
Since prehistoric times, many artists have painted the subjects that were most important to their societies. For example, religion was particularly important in Europe during the Middle Ages, and most of the paintings created then were religious. A prehistoric artist painted, the animal on a cave wall in France, about 15000 B. C. The artist lived at a time when animals served as the main source of food and clothing for human beings. The American artist Robert Bechtle painted the picture of a man and his automobile, called 60 F-Bird. The automobile is the most important means of transportation in modern American life. People have always been a favorite subject of painters. Artists have shown people intheir paintings in many different ways. All great paintings, regardless of subject matters, share a common feature. They do more than just reproduce with paint something that exists, existed, or can be imagined. They also expresses the painter's special view about a subject. Many artists turn to nature for their subject matter. They paint scenes called landscapes and seascapes that they try to capture the many moods of nature. Still-life are picture of objects. Still-life painters usually make no attempt to tell a story or express an idea. Instead, they are interested in the object themselves — their color, shape, surface, and the space within or around them. Artists often find their subject matter in the past. They paint pictures that record real events or myths of long ago. Many such paintings are instead to recall past deeds of glory or to teach a lesson. Many artists have used paintings to express political and social beliefs and to protest such things as war and poverty. Movements of social expression have appeared in painting throughout history.
The way that painters arrange colors, forms, or lines is called composition. Some painters use no recognizable subject matter. Instead, they stress composition for its own sake. Piet Mondrian's "Lozenge Composition in a Square" is an example.
Composition is also important in paintings that have recognizable subject matter. Fintoiettos "Saint Mark Rescuing a Slave" is as important for its composition as for the story it tells. Fintoretto place each figure perfectly to direct attention toward the floating figure of Saint Mark pointing to the slave on the ground. Viewers can enjoy the skillful composition even if they do not understand the story.