Mounting linen canvas onto board (Confusion)

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Thread: Mounting linen canvas onto board (Confusion)

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    Mounting linen canvas onto board (Confusion)

    Hi all,

    So, I started mounting my linen canvas onto birch and masonite panels and, one of the owners of an art store, told me not to do that, because the painting will crack over time.

    So, I did some research. There's a ton of conflicting answers out there. Right now, I use PVA glue to canvas. Some people say that you should use Miracle Muck. Other's say that you should use Acrylic Gesso. Some people say that Acrylic Gesso is non-archival, so don't use that, it'll crack the painting, later. Some people say "Never mount the canvas", just gesso the board.

    Personally, I've gotten to really like the Cassein linen canvas on the board, but I really don't want someone to purchase a painting and 10 years down the line, the painting starts to crack on them. Note: This is only for 9 x 12 paintings. For larger sizes, I use pre-stretched canvas (which, some people say to never do that because the painting will crack due to humidity changes. However, I have paintings that are 6 years old and they have never cracked).

    So, before I start going into full production mode to mount a lot of panels, any recommendations?

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    An oil painting on canvas mounted on board may well crack over time. However, no matter how it's mounted, the one thing that can be said with certainty is that it will crack less than a painting on canvas not mounted on board. Stretched canvas is an inherently unstable support, but we put up with and accept its shortcomings out of convenience and tradition. (BTW, six or even ten years is nothing in the life of a painting. It's highly unlikely that a painting will suffer catastrophic failure within that span of time, and if it does, it will probably be the result of incredibly poor craftsmanship, and show up within weeks or months of completion. On the other hand, almost every oil painting, no matter how soundly painted, will require some sort of conservation after many decades, especially if it's on a flexible support.)

    TL:DR: What you're doing is fine, don't worry about it, it probably won't be a problem, and if it is, by the time it is, it won't be your problem. If you're still worried (and you really shouldn't be), look into heat set, reversible mounting film.

    Last edited by Elwell; June 3rd, 2012 at 01:15 PM. Reason: typos

    Tristan Elwell
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    Thanks, Tristan! That was really helpful information. I got some of the same information from a number of my friends who mount their canvas on masonite, before painting.

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    For masonite it's a good idea to seal the wood first of all with some rabbit skin glue (to protect it from everything else you're going to put on it) then PVA glue for the linen, and lead white ground/gesso instead of acrylic gesso.

    At least this is what I've been taught as far as mounting linen onto wood.

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    I've been using oil primed linen mounted on kiln dried birch board for about 20 years now and have never had a problem with cracking. As long as you glue the board with PVA you should be fine.

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    Yep...like many things everyone is not only a comedian but they're also experts.
    Miracle Muck is PVA.
    Linen mounted on board can be removed safely down the line and re-applied to a new support if necessary...a painting directly on board cannot.
    Modern "gesso" is just acrylic paint.
    SourceTek are pretty much the top of the line professional supports...I make mine the same way they do.
    Tristan makes an excellent point that the painting will crack...but it will crack less and take longer if mounted on a rigid support.
    At an Egyption museum exhibit I was foruntate to run across a couple of oil portraits on wood panels from the Roman/Egyptian era that were about 1,000 years old ...they were in exceptionally good shape, especially when compared to a painting on canvas that may be only a few hundred years old.

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    Thanks, all! I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't missing anything and have someone come back to me a couple of years later and telling me that the painting cracked on them (Hasn't happened to date, but just wanted to make sure that I covered my bases with proper technique).

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Modern "gesso" is just acrylic paint.
    Acrylic gesso, rather. The formula is different from regular paint.

    At an Egyption museum exhibit I was foruntate to run across a couple of oil portraits on wood panels from the Roman/Egyptian era that were about 1,000 years old ...they were in exceptionally good shape, especially when compared to a painting on canvas that may be only a few hundred years old.
    Those are not in oils, those burial portraits from Fayum are encaustic - hot wax painting - or egg tempera. Both are very durable.

    And they still are often cracked like hell. It depends on the state of the support.

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    Great advice from everyone - love the miracle muck thing Jeff! - never heard that one before!

    One little thing I can add. Gluing the canvas to a board has the effect of coarsening it compared to sizing and stretching it on a stretcher. There are techincal reaons for this that are not really worth explaining. Just be aware that this is a very real effect when gluing canvas to a board.

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    Just paint with acrylics. We could have armageddon and an acrylic painting will survive. Oils are for amateurs.

    Disclaimer: Just responding to Jeff's everyone here is a comedian and expert. I am one but not the other. Can you tell which?

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    I know Bill was being facetious, but he's right. If absolute permanence is your primary concern, almost any medium is a better choice than oils.


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    Bill, you'll always be both to me!

    IDK Arenhaus...I was pretty struck by the info tag saying oils...since it seemed about 400 years before oils came along, at least as we know them now. I did a little fact check before making the statement just to make sure I wasn't slinging too much BS and came up with this:

    "The oldest Mediterranean civilization, Greek, Roman or Egyptian have extensively used painting techniques based on mixtures of encaustic (probably rich in bee wax), mineral pigments (iron, copper, manganese oxides) and tempera. Vegetal oils, such as flax, walnut or poppyseed oil were known to ancient Egyptians, Greeks or Romans, but no precise indication of their use in painting may be found. Tempera is a fluid mixture of binder (organic medium), water and volatile additives (vegetal essential oils). Organic binders used by Italian artists were proteinaceous materials available from animal sources (whole egg, animal glues or milk).

    At the end of the roman empire and up to the Renaissance period (15th century), this ancient technique was lost and replaced by oil paint and/or tempera. In Italy and Greece, olive oil was used to prepare pigment mixtures but the drying time was excessively long and tedious in the case of figures. This drawback led a German monk, Theophilus, in the 12th century to warn against paint recipes including olive oil (Schoedula Diversarum Artium). It was reported that Aetius Amidenus, a medical writer in the 5th century, mentioned the use of a drying oil as a varnish on paintings. Similarly, it seems that perilla oil was used in Japan in painting after addition of lead in the 8th century. In the 14th century, Cennino Cennini presented a painting procedure integrating tempera painting covered by light oily layers.


    Here is the site: History of Oil Paint

    So yeah, hard to say exactly but I imagine there were many materials and mediums in use. It's entirely possible I'm not remembering the details of the info card at the museum accurately either - those 2 small portraits just really stood out against all the faded papyrus and inks as being really vibrant and out of place actually...so when I checked I'm sure they said oils but that is all that has really stuck with me.

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