Old Masters Academy

Canvas and its Applications.

Canvas is a sturdy plain woven fabric used to make tents, sails, marquees, backpacks, canoes, trampolines and tarpaulin, all of which are for outside use but (linen) canvas replaced wooden panels as the favoured medium for oil painting artists around the time of the 17th century.

Historically, canvas was made from hemp, before being replaced by linen, but more common these days is cotton canvas due to it being economical and versatile. Canvas comes in two forms, plain and duck, the latter being more tightly woven and used extensively for outdoor applications, such as clothes, camping and sailing.

In the 20th century, cotton canvas replaced linen canvas as the most popular painting medium, although linen canvases are still used to this day by oil painters due to its makeup lending itself more to that application. Cotton canvas stretches more easily and evenly, and is the economical alternative. It is also cleaner on the eye, white in colour as opposed to linen canvas, which is brown.

Regarding canvas prints and art oriented uses of cotton canvas, the canvas is usually stretched over a wooden frame called a stretcher bar. A primer can then be applied to the canvas to avoid future corrosion but some artists prefer to paint directly on to the canvas.

The use of acrylic paint from the 1950’s onwards greatly increased the popularity of cotton canvas due to it being water based. This negated the need for the higher quality linen canvases for non oil paint artists and as the economical alternative, most artists choose to paint and print onto cotton canvas.

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