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The Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh at work Painting is the art of applying coloured paint to a surface to create a picture. Painting materials may include oils, acrylics, pastels, inks, watercolours or other substances. They are often applied with a brush, but other tools, such as knives or sponges, can also be used. The surface can be anything: wall, paper, canvas, copper, glass, and so on. The finished picture can be a realistic, lifelike representation of a person, group of people, landscape or still life. It can also be an abstract painting in which there are no recognizable features or images. A good painting can tell a story or be full of meaning and convey great depth of emotion. It can be colourful or subdued, and vary in size from the very small to the vast.

Cave painters at work in Lascaux, southwestern France, about 17,000 years ago

Cave paintings

Among the first paintings in the world are to be found on the walls of Chauvet cave in southwestern France. They date from around 32,000 years ago. The paintings of horses, other wild animals and human handprints were made using with red and black pigments applied directly to the cave walls. The cave paintings are often very realistic and depict mainly large wild animals, such as bison, horses, woolly mammoths, deer and lions. It is still not clear what the meaning of these paintings is. They may have been offerings to the gods, urging them to bring success to the huntsmen. Similar work has been found in caves elsewhere in France and Spain as well as in China, Africa and Australia.

Ancient Egypt

Vincent Van Gogh made around 900 paintings, but sold only one in his lifetime.

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