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.
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
after William Scrots
circa 1570-1580s, based on a work of 1546
associated with John Taylor
Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel
by Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Coventry Kersey Deighton Patmore
by John Singer Sargent
by Ruskin Spear
by John Keane
Lindsay Quartet (Peter Cropper; Ronald Birks; Robin Ireland; Bernard Gregor-Smith)
by György Gordon
by David Cobley
by Darvish Fakhr
Become a Member
Enjoy access to special events, discounts on the Gallery online shop, supporters’ updates and much more
Bringing people together by sharing the portraits and stories of the men and women who have shaped our nation.
Sign up to receive information on exhibitions, collections and activities of the National Portrait Gallery, including special offers, shop products, and exclusive competitions.