Oil Painters of America was founded in 1991 by Shirl Smithson primarily to focus attention on the lasting value of fine drawing, color, composition and the appreciation of light. 

Founders were witnesses to the fact that the curricula in American educational facilities told the disturbing story that representational oil painting was rarely being taught in colleges and universities anymore.  The avant-garde has taken over since the 1960s.  While OPA had no quarrel with abstract art, members were also witnesses to the undeniable fact that America’s great art museums were almost totally lacking in the presentation of contemporary great masters of representational oil painting.  With Shirl leading the way, OPA became the voice for renewed understanding and appreciation of representational art. 

Though there have been many national watercolor and pastel societies, OPA is the first national organization to be established for the sole purpose of representing traditional, representational oil painters.  OPA membership currently stands at 3,400 artists.   The principal reason behind the swelling of the ranks of this national organization is the strong commitment OPA has towards preventing a further decline of this beautiful form of art.

OPA believes that members have made great strides in giving renaissance or rebirth to this great craft, and now see on the horizon the return of interest in its instruction and teaching.