Home / Tips / Dare Art and Painting / Canvas, timeless medium

Verso d'une Toile de Peinture

Canvas, a timeless medium

A canvas is a piece of fabric that can be stretched on a frame and which, after preparation, serves as a support for painting. It is so common in oil and acrylic painting that this term is commonly used to designate a painting. However, the surfaces that can be painted are multiple and varied, so why has the canvas imposed itself so much in Fine Arts in Europe? How did the Artists took advantage of its qualities? Let's shed light on the canvas. 

The canvas has risen high in occidental Art

Artists have long painted and still paint on multiple supports, whether rigid like stone, glass or metal, or flexible like paper or cardboard. The canvas as a substrate, that is to say as a surface serving as a support for a layer of primer, paint and/or varnish, has been used since antiquity, but has been abandoned in favor of wooden panels in Middle Ages. They were then easier to obtain than the linen or hemp fabrics that had to be purchased from sailmakers. From the 16th century, orders for frescoes and altarpieces from the Church were gradually replaced by requests for portraits or small paintings. At the same time, the improvement of weaving machines lowered the price of fabric. It also offers Artists the possibility of creating large formats that are light and easy to transport.

Last benefit, but not least, the canvas is stretched on a frame. This same canvas that can be rolled up, carried under the arm and repaired thus becomes rigid and can be placed on an easel. The canvas frames also offer many format possibilities, from the most standard (rectangles) to the most original (oval, square, oblong etc.). The canvas thus had all the assets to become an essential medium for painters.

A support that is not just a backdrop

A canvas is usually made of linen, cotton, a mixture of the two, or synthetic fibers. Linen canvas are more durable and of better quality, cotton canvas are more flexible and less expensive. Linen offers much better stability over time than cotton because it is not very sensitive to humidity and very inelastic. It is the reference support for painters for its optimal qualities of conservation, its touch and its softness. Its fibers are durable and strong.

While most canvases sold on the market are ready to paint, some Artists prefer to make them by hand or prepare their support themselves by applying an acrylic coating or "Gesso". Some Modern Artists sometimes choose to paint on unprimed canvas, that is to say without coating, despite the risk of deterioration over time. A large grain promotes the grip of the paint and gives a "raw" appearance. Conversely, Renaissance painters covered their canvas with a white paint that they polished several times in order to obtain a glazed canvas capable of exempting the work from any brush mark. Thus, the choice of support and its preparation can play in favor of a more or less frank "pictorial touch" .

Discover Bodjaro's Artworks

A Selection of Unique and Original Artworks, painted in France by talented Contemporary Artists.
1 of 4