Painting in the form of pigmented surface decoration was practiced as far back as the Paleolithic Era. The development of pigments was initially contingent on the availability and creative use of local natural ingredients. Only with advancements in trade and chemistry that painters were afforded the scope and flexibility that they enjoy today.
As a fine art, painting found its stride during the Renaissance. In that era, from the 14th to the 17th centuries, artists developed perspective in painting and became interested in more naturalistic representation of the human form. Artists also gained considerable personal renown. From that time to the present, painting has been a bellwether of avant garde artistic movements, and has spurred corresponding movements in other visual mediums as well as in disciplines such as music and literature.
Painting has undergone many important transformations. In particular, the radical departure from Renaissance modes represented by color field painting and abstract art in the mid-20th century stands to illustrate a dialogue interested in the dynamic nature of visual culture. Through choices in the construction, distortion, or rejection of a scene or figure and through the use of color, composition and texture, painters are able to express their ideas to the farthest extent that their imaginations allow. It is perhaps the most universal of mediums, both in its practice and in its range. As Hans Hoffman observed, "through a painting we can see the whole world."