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The History Of Painting

The History Of Painting

Throughout recorded history, humans have had the desire to decorate their living space. As long ago as 38,000 B.C., people used paint made from soot, earth, and animal fat to adorn the walls of their caves.

In ancient Egyptian society, painters mixed ground glass or semiprecious stones, lead, earth, or animal blood with oil or fat. In modern times, we don’t think twice about painting the interior or exterior of a house. In the days of the American colonies, however, such an act opened a person up to serious social disapproval.

The Pilgrims, in accordance with their puritanical belief system, thought a colorful home expressed vanity and an excess of happiness. This idea wasn’t just bandied about; it was made law. A preacher in the Charlestown colony painted the inside of his house in 1630 and was subsequently accused of sacrilege, an actual crime in colonial society.

Between the 1600s and 1800s,most house paint used either oil or water as a base. Some colors worked better in oil, while water suited others better. Cost and durability were also part of the water or oil equation. Painters tended to use water based paints on ceilings and plaster walls; oil paint was best for decorating joinery. Painters of the time mixed pigment and oil, often with a mortar and pestle, to create a stiff paste a method we still use today.


The point of grinding pigment was to disperse it as fully as possible in oil. This was done by hand until the 1700s, which exposed many painters to white lead powder and afflicted them with lead poisoning. Lead paint was popular mainly because it was durable; the stuff could retain color for centuries.

In the 18th century, England was a hive of paint innovation. Marshall Smith invented a “Machine or Engine for the Grinding of Colors” in 1718, and while we don’t know what it looked like or how it worked, the device sparked a countrywide interest in grinding pigment more efficiently. In 1741, the paint making company Emerton and Manby boasted in an ad that it ground colors in “Horse Mills,” which allowed the business to sell its product at unusually low prices.

By the beginning of the 1800s, steam powered most paint mills. Around this time, white pigment made with nontoxic zinc oxide a viable alternative to poisonous lead was invented in Europe.

Not until the mid 20th century did house paint undergo another significant development. During World War II, linseed oil became scarce. In response to this shortage, chemists mixed alcohols and acids to make alkyds (artificial resins). These synthetics were cheap to make, lasted a long time, and excelled at holding color. They quickly replaced oil as a paint base.

Painters and decorators


In the late 1200s, English house painters formed guilds to standardize their craft and acted as a protector of their trade secrets. These secrets were their paint mixing and application skills which they kept to themselves to obtain an economic advantage over competitors or outsiders and to protect their way of making a living. These guilds eventually formed into two groups, the Painters Company and the Stainers Company. They were associations of artisans or merchants, who were skilled manual workers and would control the practice of their craft in a particular town. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel and a secret society.

The two guilds eventually merged with the consent of the Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1502, forming the Worshipful Company of Painter Stainers. In 1599, the guild asked Parliament for protection, which was eventually passed in a bill in 1606 and was granted the trade protection from outside competition such as plasterers. The Act legislated for a seven year apprenticeship and also barred plasterers from painting, unless apprenticed to a painter, with the penalty for such painting being a fine of £5.

To become an apprentice, the parents or guardians would agree with a Guild’s Master craftsman the conditions for an apprenticeship which would bind the minor for 9 years. They would pay a premium to the craftsman and the contract would be recorded in an indenture. The apprentice was bound to the master and lived with him as a member of the household, receiving most or all compensation in the form of food and lodging.

Painter With House

Enforcement of this Act by the Painter Stainers Company was sought up until the early 19th century, with master painters gathering irregularly to decide the fees that a journey man could charge. A journeyman was someone who had completed an apprenticeship and was fully educated in a trade or craft, but not yet a master. To become a master, a journeyman had to submit a master work piece to a guild for evaluation and be admitted to the guild as a master.

The Painter Stainers Company also instigated an early version of a job center in 1769, advertising in the London newspapers a “house of call” system to advertise for journeymen and also for journeymen to advertise for work. The guild’s power in setting the fee a journeyman could charge was eventually overturned by law in 1827 and superseded by trade unions with the Operative United Painters’ Union forming sometime around 1831.

In 1894 a national association formed, recreating itself in 1918 as the National Federation of Master Painters and Decorators of England and Wales

.The name was once again changed to the British Decorators Association before merging in 2002, with the Painting & Decorating Federation to form the Painting & Decorating Association.

Peter Samuel has been in the brush trade since 1985 where he has been active in markets such as Italy, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. As a result of his involvement in mold injection and brush-making machine companies, he gained comprehensive knowledge of brush-making, not only understanding filaments but all other aspects of the product, including how to manufacture it. With his extensive knowledge and experience, he has built a company that produces high quality paint brushes and paint rollers and is at the forefront of technological advances in filament performance.

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