Oil painting as a painting medium, the usage of oil in combination with other pigments counts back to 1400. Prior to oil painting, painting in general dates its history back to the period of stone age, painting in that era was made with the usage of binders unlike oil painting mixed with some kind of pigments like egg in tempera paints.
The fifteenth century was seen as a transitional period in Europe, there was some sort of reality visualized in art. Art was changing from the decorative style and mythological during a middle age to a period of revival and rebirth with the beginning of renaissance. There was a realization among the artists, they were beginning to understand the mathematical laws behind the outlook and there was a scenario prevailing where the artist were interested in portraying more sincere and portrays that were more realistic in nature. They had initiated the usage of nature as a source of inspiration for their paintings.
Jan Van Eyck (1395-1441), a painter of the northern renaissance wanted to mimic nature and its scenic beauty along with his painting brush on the board. He wanted to paint every tiniest detail on his board to portray his paintings to be more scenic and livelier. Finally he realized that if he had to portray every tiny detail of painting to his fullest satisfaction, he had to improve on the technique of painting. Thus with this zeal to portray tiny detail of nature with clarity he became the inventor of oil painting. Initially Van Eyck and all painters during the period of renaissance did not buy ready made colors. They grounded their pigment from natural sources like plants and minerals and in turn they added binder to form a paste with which they could paint. During the middle ages the binder which was used was egg and the end- product thus formed was tempera paint, this had the tendency to dry very quickly. This property of quick drying agent did not permit smooth transitions in shading. But smooth transitions were necessary to achieve as sense of reality which Van Eyck was attempting to portray. Thus he initiated the usage of oil instead of egg. The work with oil as a binder was much slower and accurate to the satisfaction levels. An oil binder permits to provide a glossier look. With this technique he was able to apply tiny detailing with the help of pointed brushes. Later the new technique of oil painting was appreciated and there was a general acceptance of oil painting to be used as a widely used suitable medium of painting. There are many other mediums of oil paintings available but we still adhere to the usage of oil painting invented by Van Eyck.