A woven cloth used as a support for painting. The best-quality canvas is made of linen; other materials used are cotton, hemp, and jute. It is now so familiar a material that the word ‘canvas’ has become almost a synonym for an oil painting, but it was not until around 1500 that it began to rival the wooden panel as the standard support for movable paintings. Canvas had the advantages over panel of being cheaper, easier to produce, and more portable (it can be rolled for transport), as well as providing an attractive surface ‘tooth’ that encouraged the textural possibilities of oil paint. The transition to canvas took place first in Italy, with panels remaining popular in northern Europe well into the 17th century. Canvas is not suitable for painting on until it has been coated with a ground, which isolates the fabric from the paint; otherwise it will absorb too much paint, only very rough effects will be obtainable, and parts of the fabric may be rotted by the pigments. It must also be made taut on a stretcher or by some other means.
Subjects: Art & Architecture