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Coupe de Champagne pour Vernissage Tableau

What is a "vernissage"?

What is the common thread between a glass of champagne and a large brush? Between a neat presentation and a satin finish? "Vernissage" ! If this term has today a worldly connotation, it is interesting to recall the origin and the usefulness of "vernissage", both literally and figuratively. Why a private viewing  is called "Vernissage" in French? Why apply varnish to a painting? Let's take a closer look at this "vernissage" which makes Artist-Painters and their Artworks shine.

Where does the tradition of opening an exhibition with a vernissage come from?

The vernissage of an art exhibition is a reception given the day before its official opening. This use is the legacy of a practice that was in force at the "Salon", an annual art exhibition held in Paris from 1667 to 1890. The paintings presented were varnished on site during private sessions organized before the public visit. . It was an opportunity for the hand-picked guests to discuss the exhibited works with the Artists and with the other guests. Some Artists took the opportunity to add a final touch to their paintings instead of just varnishing them. Artist-painter Turner was known for his last-minute touch-ups that could sometimes stand out from the other paintings nearby. He was also a fervent defender of these opening sessions which allowed painters to meet in a simple and friendly way. If today the paintings are no longer varnished in public, the vernissages are still important moments of meetings and sharing for the Artist-painters, their relatives and the professionals who gravitate around the world of art.

The private viewings are an opportunity to discover and promote some Artists and their works to an informed audience who will be able to echo the event. Often there are gallery owners, specialized journalists, art critics, patrons, and sometimes public figures. It is also a high point commercially speaking, many paintings finding their buyers during these inaugurations often followed by a cocktail.

Why artists varnish their paintings?

Vernissage in the first sense in French designates the action of varnishing, that is to say of coating with varnish. There are water-based or solvent-based varnishes, to be sprayed or applied with a wide brush, and offering different finishes (matt, glossy or satin). Varnish plays a dual role of finishing and protecting hand-painted works, enhancing them and ensuring their longevity. The varnish standardizes the painting and revives its colors. The Artwork gains in depth and intensity. It also protects the paint from external aggressions and preserves the colors that could tarnish over time under the effect of UV rays. It also facilitates the maintenance of the painting, making a simple wipe to clean enough to remove the dust. For oil painting, you have to wait several months before being able to apply a varnish as the oil takes a long time to dry through. For acrylic, a few days are enough, you just have to be sure that the painting is indeed completed and that the finish chosen will be the most suitable. If this step is sometimes experienced by Artists with a touch of apprehension, the resulting "wow" effect is a great reward; the painting is ready to emerge from the intimacy of the studio and shine in society!

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