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Acrylic Painting

Acrylic painting is a pictorial technique which is widely popular in today’s art world. It uses a synthetic paint and its paste is made of pigments which are similar to those found in oil painting. It is emulsified with water and mixed with resin which binds them together.

Although the current success of acrylic paint is undeniable, its invention is nonetheless relatively recent in the history of painting. It was first developed in the 1930s in the United States. The advantages of this new technique (durability, solidity, quick to dry) were initially put to use in the industrial, construction and automobile sectors. In 1949, the printers Leonor Colour and Sam Golden decided to commercialise the invention and target artists thanks to the paint brand Magma.

At the same time, chemists at the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico were also developing its texture, working alongside expert muralists who used it to create the mural and fresco paintings on the Mexico University’s façade.

The material was embraced by the art world with important representatives of abstract expressionism, including Kooning, Rothko and Morris Louis using it in their work. But it was in 1963 that acrylic paint truly conquered the art world under the commercial brand name Liquitex, thanks to the innovations of Henry Levinson who made the paint dilutable with water and not just turpentine spirit.

Thanks to this, the paint became easier to work with, and more importantly, more accessible. It quickly became the favourite medium of Pop Art legends such as the painters Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Previously ignored in favour of oil painting which continued to be a symbol of the Fine Arts par excellence, acrylic painting benefited from the influence of these big names. Mindsets gradually changed and acrylic paint continued to seduce an ever growing audience of creators. Originally an exclusively American privilege, the paint was exported to Europe around 1965. This was mainly thanks to the Belgian painter Pierre Alechinsky who played a role in making it popular among the Western European Surrealist circles after he returned from New York. Joan Miró and Max Ernst also demonstrated a preference for the medium, which had in the meantime become a legitimate alternative to oil painting.

The two canvas painting techniques conflict with each other in several ways . Many see acrylic paint as a material which corresponds better to the fast-paced modernity of our times. Whilst oil painting requires a tremendous amount of patience and and can crack when drying, acrylic paint dries quickly, does not need varnishing, is highly waterproof and most importantly, can be conserved more easily.

Acrylic resin can also be adapted to all kinds of supports, whether it be glass or fabric, and its texture allows the artist to play intricately with the thickness and reliefs without having to worry about the chromatic purity of the palette. The works of the contemporary painters John Kokkinos, Julien Colombier and Dan Barichasse are all examples of the use of the medium in artworks today.

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