Innovative Painting

We take house painting for granted as a way to decorate our homes and protect surfaces against drying, rot, and the elements. Yet this seemingly simple product has a long, fascinating history – much too long and fascinating to summarize in just one essay. A brief history, however, is better than no history at all. In that spirit, we present a few snapshots of house paint’s evolution in order to heighten your appreciation of it, and to provide some perspective on humans’ need to secure and beautify their dwelling places.

Forty millennium ago, cave inhabitants combined various substances with animal fat to make paint, which they used to add pictures and colors to the walls of their crude homes. This of course is The Cave of LascauxRed and yellow ochre, hematite, manganese oxide, and charcoal were all employed as color elements. Starting around 3150 B.C., ancient Egyptian painters mixed a base of oil or fat with color elements like ground glass or semiprecious stones, lead, earth, or animal blood. White, black, blue, red, yellow, and green were their hues of choice. At the turn of the 14th century, house painters in England created guilds, which established standards for the profession and kept trade secrets under lock and key.

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