About this term
Source: Oxford University Press
Painting executed on an Easel or other portable support, i.e. the majority of paintings on canvas and panel. Easel painting became pre-eminent in the 16th century and has remained so. The term implies not only physical aspects but also inherent concepts that are very different from those associated with wall paintings or those intended for a fixed position or an architectural scheme. Easel painting is therefore associated with the increased secular use of art from the 16th century and with the identification of paintings as objects of worth in their own right. The rise of easel painting involved a subtle assertion of the independence of the art of painting and the profession of painter. The status afforded to painting in the writings of, for example, Leonardo da Vinci and Giorgio Vasari reflects these developments and anticipates the increased social and intellectual status of the individual artist.
From Grove Art Online