Friday, 4 September 2015

The History of Acrylic Painting

Blog 35

Golden Days of Fall, Acrylic, 8" x 10"

While I spent my summer finishing many oil paintings from my painting trips of the last two years, my favourite medium is still acrylic. Now, while I am preparing my courses for the fall I am researching topics that might interest my students and readers. At the same time, it is a wonderful way to increase my own knowledge. As I will soon be heading back to my studio to work on my acrylic paintings, I wanted to give you a look at the relatively short history of acrylic paints.

Acrylic resin was first invented by the German chemist Dr. Otto Röhm in 1901. Between 1946 and 1949, Leonard Bocour and Sam Golden invented a mineral spirit-based acrylic paint under the brand name Magna. This paint could be mixed with oils. Next they invented a water-based acrylic paint called Aquatec.

In the 1950s, the water-based acrylic paints hit the market for commercial use as latex house paints. Latex (or emulsion) is the technical term for a suspension of polymer microparticles in water.

Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros started to experiment with acrylic paints before 1950, starting with latex paints used to paint walls which were lacking permanence. He later encouraged Jackson Pollock and Morris Louis to use acrylic paints. He considered the traditional painting techniques outdated and not adequate to express the vision of his time and the future. He was looking for new materials which corresponded with the industrial progress.

In 1953, when Röhm and Haas developed the first acrylic emulsions. At the same time, Jose L. Gutierrez produced Politec Acrylic Artists' Colors in Mexico. In 1955 Permanent Pigments Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio developed Liquitex, the first water-based acrylic paint. Liquitex was created with an acrylic polymer resin that was emulsified with water. The company changed its name to Liquitex and developed the first heavy bodied, water-based acrylic colours, with a consistency similar to oil paints, in 1963.

In the early 1960s, artists started working with this new paint medium to find new ways for their creating process. In 1963, Rowney (part of Daler-Rowney since 1983) was the first manufacturer to introduce their artist quality acrylic paints called Cryla in Europe.

The continuous innovations of acrylic paints were pushed by the experiments from influential painters like David Alfaro Siqueiros as well as the trendsetters of the American Pop Art like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, Abstract Expressionists Mark Rothko, British Op-Art painter Bridget Riley and British Pop Art painter David Hockney.

To find out why acrylic paints are so popular with many modern painters please return for next week’s blog. If you would like to see whether you are able to tell the difference between my acrylic and oil paintings, I invite you to see my solo exhibition "Indian Summer in Canada" at

Tyros Shawarma Lebanese Restaurant,5929 Jeanne d'Arc Boulevard, Orléans, ON K1C 6V8. 

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