Painting is the practice of applying pigment suspended in a carrier (or medium) and a binding agent to a surface such as paper, canvas or a wall. However, when used in an artistic sense it means the use of this activity in combination with drawing, composition, or other aesthetic considerations in order to manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of the practitioner. Painting is also used to express ideas; sites of this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological figures on pottery and to the human body itself. Painting is the expression of ideas and emotions, with the creation of certain aesthetic qualities, in a two-dimensional visual language. The elements of this language are its shapes, lines, colours, tones, and textures—are used in various ways to produce sensations of volume, space, movement, and light on a flat surface. These elements are combined into expressive patterns in order to represent real or supernatural phenomena, to interpret a narrative theme, or to create abstract visual relationships. An artist’s decision to use a particular medium, such as fresco, oil, acrylic, watercolor or other water-based paints, ink or as well as the choice of a particular form, such as mural, easel, panel, miniature, manuscript illumination, scroll, screen or fan, panorama, or any of a variety of modern forms, is based on the appealing qualities and the expressive possibilities and limitations of those options.
Like drawing, painting originated in caves and on rock faces. The finest examples, believed by some to be 32,000 years old, are in the Chauvet and Lascaux caves in southern France. In shades of red, brown, yellow and black, the paintings on the walls and ceilings are of bison, cattle, horses and deer.
Paintings of human figures can be found in the tombs of ancient Egypt. In the great temple of Ramses II, Nefertiti, his queen, is depicted being led by Isis. The Greeks contributed to painting but much of their work has been lost. One of the best remaining representations are the Hellenistic Fayum mummy portraits. Another example is mosaic of the Battle of Issus at Pompeii, which was probably based on a Greek painting. Greek and Roman art contributed to Byzantine art in the 4th century BC, which initiated a tradition in icon painting.