Painting with oils, or with colors mixed into plant oils such as walnut or linseed, became popular with many artists because of their durability. Oil paints dry very slowly, allowing paintings to be reworked over time; they do not evaporate while drying, so avoid cracking and shrinking; they do not lose color intensity over time; they are waterproof; and they remain flexible when dry, making them ideal for painting on canvas.
Oil-based paints first came into limited, decorative use in Europe in the 1300s, but did not become widely used until the 1600s. Artists produced their own oil colors in small amounts, with help from apprentices in their workshops, by grinding powdered chalks, clays, minerals, and even gemstones into oil on a marble slab. The invention of the capped, metal paint tube in 1841 enabled oil paints to be mixed in bulk, resulting in more dependable consistency and a wider variety of colors, and easily purchased, stored and transported for use outside of the artist’s studio.