Stretching a canvas is a skill that was once a fundamental part of art education, but as the cost of ready-made stretched canvases has decreased, the value of this skill has also decreased. In the past, many artists stretched their own canvases, using materials like Rabbit skin glue to prepare the surface. Today, there are Gesso primers that serve the same purpose, eliminating the need for the use of animals.
The first step in stretching a canvas is to create a stable frame support, known as a stretcher frame. Professional framers typically use sturdy wood moldings for this purpose. The frame should be strong enough to support the weight and tension of even the largest canvases, and may require additional cross bars for added rigidity. The finished canvas should sit flush against the wall without any bending or distortion.
Before stretching the canvas, it’s important to test its flexibility. If the canvas is stiff due to a thick layer of impasto paint, it may be prone to cracking, especially if the paint is not fully dry. The framer should also take into account the size and shape of the image, ensuring that it will fit onto the chosen shape of the stretcher frame without wrapping around the edges.
The framer should then measure the canvas, taking into account any “give” in the material, and mark the size of the image. It’s important to check that the edges of the image are parallel, and to use the shortest measurement as a starting point. The framer should also consider the client’s preferences, as they may want the image to wrap around the edges of the frame.
In conclusion, stretching a canvas is an art form that involves creating a stable frame support and measuring the canvas, taking into account the flexibility and size of the image. This skill may not be as widely used as it once was, but it still plays an important role in preserving and displaying artwork. Today, one can also use Gesso primers that do the same job as Rabbit skin glue without putting rabbits through such an ordeal.