Canvas is typically stretched across a wooden frame called a stretcher, and may be coated with gesso before it is to be used; this is to prevent oil paint from coming into direct contact with the canvas fibers, which will eventually cause the canvas to decay. A traditional and flexible chalk gesso is composed of lead carbonate and linseed oil, applied over a rabbit skin glue ground; a variation using titanium white pigment and calcium carbonate is rather brittle and susceptible to cracking. Various alternative and more flexible canvas primers are commercially available, the most popular being a synthetic latex paint composed of titanium dioxide and calcium carbonate, bound with a thermo-plastic emulsion. Many artists have painted onto unprimed canvas
Canvas has become the most common support medium for oil paintings, replacing wooden panels. One of the earliest surviving canvas art prints is a French Madonna with angels from around 1410. However, panel painting remained more common until the 16th century in italy and the 17th century in Northern Europe. Venetian artists were among those leading the change; Venetian sail canvas was readily available and regarded as the best quality.
Early canvas was made of linen a sturdy brownish fabric of considerable strength. Linen is particularly suitable for the use of oil paint. In the early 20th century, cotton canvas, often referred to as "cotton duck", came into use. Linen is composed of higher quality material, and remains popular with many professional artists, Cotton duck, which stretches more fully and has an even, mechanical weave, offers a more economical alternative.
Gesso-ed canvases on stretchers are also available. These pre-stretched, pre-primed canvases are suitable for all but the most exacting professional standards. They are available in a variety of weights: light-weight is about 4 oz. or 5 oz.; medium-weight is about 7 oz. or 8 oz.; heavy-weight is about 10 oz. or 12 oz. They are prepared with two or three coats of gesso and are ready for use straight away. Artists desiring greater control of their painting surface may add a coat or two of their preferred gesso. Professional artists who wish to work on canvas may prepare their own canvas in the traditional manner.
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 achieved. A warm iron is applied over over a piece of wet cotton to flatten the wrinkles.
Canvas can also be printed onto using specialist digital printers to create canvas prints. This process of digital inkjet printing is popularly referred to as Giclee. After printing, the canvas can be wrapped around a stretcher and displayed.
Giclee Canvas Art Prints
Modern large format printers are capable of printing onto canvas rolls measuring 60" or more. Modern examples of inkjet-based printers capable of printing directly onto canvas are the HP Designjet z6100 and the Epson Stylus Pro 9880. Printers such as these allow artists and photographers to print their works directly onto canvas media.
The popularity of canvas art prints has been aided by the general development of and increased accessibility to graphics technology, including printers and software. The benefits of the Giclée process over traditional methods to printmakers include lower set-up and maintenance costs. This, combined with the continued rise in computer use has allowed individual artists and photographers, as well as large printhouses, to create canvas art prints of their work to sell. Online galleries, in comparison to traditional retail outlets allow prints to be sold on an on-demand basis, as well as the means to offer customised canvas art prints.
Reproductions of original artwork have been printed on canvas for many decades. Since the 1990s, canvas art prints have been associated with either dye sublimination or inkjet print processes (often referred to as Reprograoh and giclee respectively).
We hope this has given you a useful insight into the history of canvas prints.