Since France has such a rich artistic history, from Gothic architecture to Surrealism and beyond, it's not too surprising that there are three different words for "painting" in French. You'll find one of them in our new video on the artist Karine Rougier:
Un travail à la fois de peintures, de sculptures... de pierres peintes.
Works of both paintings, of sculptures... of painted rocks.
Captions 9-10, Le saviez-vous? - Karine Rougier présente son artPlay Caption
Une peinture shouldn't be too hard to remember, since it's a cognate of "painting." Its relatives also have direct English equivalents: peindre (to paint), peint/peinte (painted), peintre (painter).
Peinture is also the word for "paint," as in the substance:
Et la peinture, euh...
And the paint, uh...
on peut dire, se sépare pas comme une vinaigrette.
we can say, doesn't separate like a vinaigrette.
Caption 31, Salon Eco Habitat - La peinture à l'ocrePlay Caption
So la peinture à l'huile, for example, can either mean "oil painting" or "oil paint."
In English, a "tableau" is an artistic grouping or arrangement, originally referring to a motionless group of people representing a scene or historical event, kind of like a living painting. As a matter of fact, "tableau" is short for tableau vivant, which means exactly that. Un tableau (literally, "little table") is another word for "painting" in French:
Actuellement, je prépare un grand tableau, "La naissance de Vénus".
At the moment, I'm preparing a great painting, "The Birth of Venus."
Caption 67, Il était une fois: les Explorateurs - 10. Amerigo VespucciPlay Caption
Finally, there's la toile, which technically means "canvas," but is just as often used for "painting":
Vous y découvrirez la reproduction d'une toile de Sisley.
There you'll find the reproduction of a Sisley painting.
Caption 10, Voyage en France - Saint-MammèsPlay Caption
But that's not all! Une toile is also "a web," as in une toile d'araignée (spider's web). And just as you can say "the web" in English to refer to the internet, in French you can say la toile.
We hope this lesson has inspired you to get out your pinceaux (paintbrushes)!