Recent attention to Sigmar Polke's use of lavender oil in his latest work reminded me of the significantly aromatic nature of oil painting. I have always found the smell of linseed oil, aka flax seed oil to be delicious, and since it all comes from the flax plant, also the source of linen, a traditional ground for oil painting, it all works together in a very material way. Conceptually beautiful, the use of lavender essential oil in a painting is also practically useful with an eye to the passage of time, because it is antibacterial and so obstructive of decay. The fragrance has a bracing effect , and the essence preserves against insects and the attack of molds.
The Greek Orthodox icon painters have been aware for centuries that the sweet smell of the pigments and varnishes they used, made from natural materials heightened the experience of the faithful as they kissed the surfaces of the icons in veneration.
Spike, made from spike lavender has been used since the 18th century as a solvent alternative to turpentine, and is used in varnishes and mediums too.
A tablespoon of lemon or other essential oil added to latex or other water based paints pleasantly mask the odor of the other ingredients as they dry and outgas and also work against mold. I know that sometimes essential oils such as cypress, lavender and others have been added to waxes to protect decoratively painted furniture, floors and other surfaces, and polishing brings out the scent.
Image above: (not one made with lavender oil, unfortunately nothing online so far...)
Dispersion on printed fabric
70 7/8 x 86 5/8 in. (180 x 220 cm)
Collection Dr. Rainer Speck, Cologne