Artists use small (or sometimes much larger)
pieces of canvas as a base for their works
of art. This canvas is stretched across
a wooden frame called a stretcher, and is
coated with gesso before it is to be used
(although some modern artists, such as Francis
Bacon and Helen Frankenthaler, sometimes
paint onto the bare, unprimed canvas). Early
canvas was made of
a sturdy brownish fabric of considerable
strength. In the early 20th century,
came into use. Cotton, which stretches more
and has an even mechanical weave, is less
preferred than linen by the professional
The considerable price difference,
however, prompts many beginners, and even
mid-level artists, to choose cotton over
linen. One can also buy small, pre-prepared
canvases which are glued to a cardboard
backing in the factory and precoated. However,
these are only available in certain sizes,
and are not acid-free, so their lifespan
is extremely limited. They are usually used
Pre-gessoed canvases on stretchers are also
available. Professional artists who wish
to work on canvas usually prepare their
own canvas in the traditional manner.
One of the most outstanding differences
between modern painting techniques and those
of the Flemish and Dutch Masters is in the
preparation of the canvas. "Modern"
techniques take advantage of both the canvas
texture as well as those of the paint itself.
A novice artist often finds it nearly impossible to approach the realism of such classic art, despite skill in applying the paint. In fact, Renaissance masters took extreme measures to ensure that none of the texture of the canvas came through. This required a painstaking, months-long process of layering the raw canvas with (usually) lead-white paint, then polishing the surface, and then repeating. The final product had little resemblance to fabric, but instead had a glossy, enamel-like finish. Though this may seem an extreme measure to the modern painter, it is crucial if photographic
realism is the end goal.
With a properly prepared canvas, the painter will find that each subsequent layer of color glides on in a "buttery" manner, and that with the proper consistency of application (fat over lean technique), a painting entirely devoid of brushstrokes can be readily achieved.
Calico fabric Definition