From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Painting, meant literally, is the practice of applying color to a surface. However, when used in the context of the visual arts, the term "painting" means the use of this activity in combination with drawing, composition and other aesthetic considerations in order to manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of the practitioner.
Painting is used as a mode of representing, documenting and expressing all the varied intents and subjects that are as numerous as there are practitioners of the craft. Paintings can be naturalistic and representational (as in a still life or landscape painting), photographic, abstract, be loaded with narrative content, symbolism, emotion or be political in nature. A large portion of the history of painting is dominated by spiritual motifs and ideas; sites of this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological figures on pottery to biblical scenes to depictions of the human body itself as a spiritual subject.
From prehistoric times to antiquity
The oldest known paintings are at the Grotte Chauvet in France, claimed by some historians to be about 32,000 years old. They are engraved and painted using red ochre and black pigment and show horses, rhinoceros, lions, buffalo, mammoth or humans often hunting. However the earliest evidence of painting has been discovered in two rock-shelters in Arnhem Land, in northern Australia. In the lowest layer of material at these sites there are used pieces of ochre estimated to be 60,000 years old. Archaeologists have also found a fragment of rock painting preserved in a limestone rock-shelter in the Kimberley region of North-Western Australia, that is dated 40 000 years old.  There are examples of cave paintings all over the world—in India, France, Spain, Portugal, China, Australia, etc.
The invention of photography
The invention of photography had a major impact on painting. In 1829, the first photograph was produced. From the mid to late 19th century, photographic processes improved and, as it became more widespread, painting lost much of its historic purpose to provide an accurate record of the observable world. There began a series of art movements into the 20th century where the Renaissance view of the world was steadily eroded, through Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism and Dadaism.
Modern and contemporary art
Modern and contemporary art has moved away from the historic value of craft and documentation in favour of concept; this led some to say in the 1960s that painting, as a serious art form, is dead. This has not deterred the majority of living painters from continuing to practice painting either as whole or part of their work. The vitality and versatility of painting in the 21st century belies the premature declarations of its demise. In an epoch characterized by the idea of pluralism, there is no consensus as to a representative style of the age. Important works of art continue to be made in a wide variety of styles and aesthetic temperaments, the marketplace being left to judge merit.
21st century art
Among the continuing and current directions in painting at the beginning of the 21st century are monochrome painting, hard-edge painting, geometric abstraction, appropriation, hyperrealism, Photorealism, Expressionism, minimalism, lyrical abstraction, pop art, op art, abstract expressionism, neo-expressionism, collage, intermedia painting, assemblage painting, computer art painting, postmodern painting, neo-dada painting, shaped canvas painting, environmental mural painting, traditional figure painting, landscape painting, portrait painting, and paint-on-glass animation.
- History of painting
- List of painters
- Oil painting
- Painting within a painting
- Portrait painting
- Watercolor painting
- Western painting