Oil

Oil paint consists of pigment mixed with an oil medium, usually linseed, and can be diluted with spirits. Because of its versatility, flexibility and rich and dense colour, oil has become the most popular painting medium for important works since the sixteenth century. It dries slowly, rather than sets, and can be painted over to create a great variety of effects from enamel smoothness to violent impasto. Both minute detail and subtle blending of tones can be achieved in a way no other painting technique can rival, the closest being acrylic.

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Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, by Unknown artist, after  William Scrots, circa 1570-1580s (1546) - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
by Unknown artist, after William Scrots
circa 1570-1580s (1546)
NPG 4952

William Shakespeare, attributed to John Taylor, circa 1600-1610 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

William Shakespeare
attributed to John Taylor
circa 1600-1610
NPG 1

George Romney, by George Romney, 1784 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

George Romney
by George Romney
1784
NPG 959

Edwin Landseer, by John Ballantyne, circa 1865 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Edwin Landseer
by John Ballantyne
circa 1865
NPG 835

Queen Alexandra, after Sir (Samuel) Luke Fildes, 1920 (1894) - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Queen Alexandra
after Sir (Samuel) Luke Fildes
1920 (1894)
NPG 1889

Coventry Kersey Deighton Patmore, by John Singer Sargent, 1894 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Coventry Kersey Deighton Patmore
by John Singer Sargent
1894
NPG 1079

Harold Wilson, by Ruskin Spear, exhibited 1974 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Harold Wilson
by Ruskin Spear
exhibited 1974
NPG 5047

Mo Mowlam, by John Keane, 2001 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Mo Mowlam
by John Keane
2001
NPG 6468

Ken Dodd, by David Cobley, 2004 - NPG  - © David Cobley / National Portrait Gallery, London

Ken Dodd
by David Cobley
2004
NPG 6702

Akram Khan, by Darvish Fakhr, 2008 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London; commissioned with help from the Jerwood Charitable Foundation through the Jerwood Portrait Commission, 2008

Akram Khan
by Darvish Fakhr
2008
NPG 6847

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