Today, canvas is the most preferred medium of paintings especially oil paintings. However, was it a common medium before? In fact it was not used before. Before the renaissance period, about 1400-1700 years ago, all artistic paintings were done on solid mediums such as pieces of wood.
However, during the period of Italian Renaissance, the merchant shipping industry was fast taking shape and with this boom came several innovations and technologies borrowed from the Eastern culture and among the technologies borrowed were the use of canvas for sailing.
Canvas was originally made of hemp. The word canvas was derived from Arabic word “cannabis,” a Latin term that means hemp. Canvas is a strong material that was made by tightly weaving the cannabis sativa fiber together to form a strong fabric material that was used for tents and sails.
With the sudden success of the merchant industry, the use of canvas was publicized and the first canvas portrait was seen in Venice around 1500 AD. Canvas painting then quickly became over traditional wood planks. Due to its durability, canvas is able to withstand the oil paint as well as test of time. It is also light, less expensive, more portable and easy to cut in size.
By the 17th century, the use of canvas for art painting had spread throughout America and Europe, superseding other mediums as dominant support for paintings and up to date, it is the most popular medium for art paintings.
Uses of Canvas Paintings
One of the reasons people made canvas paintings is to capture the experience of seeing something unique and which one would like to respond to. For instance, if one is moved by the state of a certain city, he or she would put up a painting of the city on a canvas and eventually have it for years even after leaving the city.
Another use of canvas painting is to decorate the house walls. Beautiful paintings on canvas can be hanged on walls to enhance beauty of the house. Canvas paintings can also be used to capture the memories of fallen heroes. For instance, artists have made paintings of legends such as Martin Luther just to keep memories of this Black American Legend.