The market success of oil portraiture and oil paintings in general is something we have been hearing quite a bit about in recent months. But how should one integrate oil paintings to home interiors?

To my mind, the beauty and timeless appeal of oil paintings and of oil portraits in particular is an aesthetic everyone can appreciate and incorporate into their home designs more effortlessly than they probably think.

Short of doling out a lot of money for a master work, acquiring an oil painting can be done simply by strolling through your local thrift store or, if looking for something a bit more high end, by visiting a vintage and antique store, where you’ll likely spot one or two oil paintings sitting in a corner waiting to be found.

Thrifted oil paintings will add a touch of sophistication to any interior, with their velvety richness of tone, their natural depth and glow. Paired with flowers and other simple touches, they are a perfect, elegant match for Shabby Chic living rooms, cozy book nooks or romantic bedrooms.

A single oil portrait, with its central emphasis on the sitter’s features, can also become the focal point in a room, gently drawing the gaze to a particular area you wish to highlight. European in origin, oil portraiture can feel intimidating to some. But you will soon see how easily it adds a charming touch of Old-World elegance and romanticism to any room.

The idea of decorating with oil paintings also harks back to another, more minimalist trend, and even to the style known as “wabi-sabi.” Originally a Japanese aesthetic echoing a philosophy of “mono no aware”, or a certain sadness about the evanescence of life, wabi-sabi has since become known as a living decoration style. Wood pieces, usually worn, are central to this aesthetic, which seeks to convey a minimalist, spacious, even generous idea of beauty.

Oil paintings and portraits can also be very successfully used to emphasize the sparse elegance of the style, especially when hung up with a smaller frame, perhaps one made of worn wood, or even stripped of their frame entirely. The piece then becomes something of a statement on the wabi-sabi style itself, conveying a beauty tinged with a wistfulness, a gentle melancholy, but also with compassion, a feeling which is deepened by the soft pastels, whites and greys characteristic of the style.

And so, although aristocratic in origin, oil paintings have long since lent their timeless beauty and effortless elegance to everyday styles and budget-friendly design trends. Its exceptional, authentic combination of depth of character and versatility has made the oil painting a classic to be revisited in any interior, big or small.

Caroline Kerjean

January 2024

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