Painting, painting, canvas, frame and frame

11 December, 2019
It seems that the terms table, painting, canvas, stretcher and frame are not clear to everyone. Explanations, therefore!

Indeed, if all this may seem obvious, I am often asked, for example, what is a frame for, and if it is possible to mount the canvas directly on a frame.


It is not possible. Here is a small glossary of basic technical terms which consist in describing a table and its various parts.


The different elements that make up an artist's painting

The painting


Table is a generic term which in our case designates an image that has been painted on a canvas with color pigments, the canvas being fixed on a frame, surrounded by a frame.

The painting


The paint refers to color pigments which are available in tube. It is a paste of pigments which is used to paint the picture, to color the image and to give it volume.


The term "painting" is also commonly used to designate a painted canvas which is generally a work of art. We will say: a painting by Van Gogh, or "it's a painting by Van Gogh", indifferently.


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The canvas is the support on which we will draw before painting the picture.


It is sold in rolls of different dimensions and weight, depending on the qualities. There are mainly two types of fabrics:

  • Linen canvas, generally thicker and more resistant to humidity than cotton. It does not relax very much when wet and is generally considered more noble.
  • Cotton canvas is the most widely used. Note that once the preparation layer has been applied (a gesso), there is little or no difference between cotton and linen.


We also speak of a master canvas to designate a work of art painted on this support.

The chassis


The frame is a wooden frame on which we will stretch the canvas. There are two types of frames.


The classic wooden frame, composed of 4 sides plus any reinforcements if the canvas is large, in order to avoid deformations.


The key frame, which is a frame with keys at all four corners. The keys to retighten the canvas if it relaxes with age or because of humidity.


The framework


The frame is an ornamental piece that surrounds the canvas mounted on a frame. It is purely decorative, and it is very common these days not to use it. There is a very wide variety of models.


We manufacture "American box" type frames in our workshop which give a very nice rendering, the canvas appearing to float in the frame.


Frame and chassis are often confused. The canvas is mounted on a frame, and only then framed. You cannot mount a canvas directly on a frame.


(I wrote this article because I have often been asked the question)

There you go, hoping that now everything is clear and you know the difference between them all the elements constituting a painting: the frame, the stretcher, the canvas and the painting.

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