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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Medallion canvasApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2017-01-07 13:09:59 ... Most recent comment 2017-01-07 13:15:00
    Industrial and Non-Traditional Products Oil Paint Studio Tools and Tips
    Dear all, I am facing a problem. I am an art reproduction specialist, and until now I have been making all of my canvasses, from stretching on the frame, to prime grounding. I had done only one medallion in my career, and with success. It was longer than stretching a canvas on a square frame, but it wasn't that difficult. There were no folds, and I used tacks. I recently had a new order with a medallion format, and to save myself some time, I tried ordering to a national specialist a handcrafted but ready-made medallion canvas. I was shoked to receive it, first in only a thin cellophane wrap, but worst is, the cloth was stretched with staples, onto the back. Also the staples were put very close to one another, it felt like the number was too much, and they were not regularly applied. As a conservator too, and being aware of the quality of the materials I use, I find this outrageous.
    I called the craftman to complain but he assured me during an hour that nobody ever complained, that that's how it's done, never in is career anyone said otherwise, and should I have wanted tacks instead of staples I should have asked. Now, again, this company is specialized in traditional, handcrafted canvasses, and their clients range about all the national museums.
    I am lost here, what are your hints on the subject ? Am I to idealist to ask for tacks on a medallion canvas ? He said this would not have allowed to avoid folds entirely, but again, I did one myself with success. What do you think, do museums allow art reproductions to be made in these conditions ? Thank you again for your answers.


Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Many do consider tacks to be superior to staples for stretching canvases. Some of this is tradition but also the possibility of staples crushing or cutting the canvas if they are struck too deeply. If staples are used, only heavy duty staples should be used as they provide a lot of grip to hold hte canvas and are less likely to cut into the canvas. Care should be taken to not drive them deeper than necessary. I consider it best practice to set each staple at a 45 degree angle so that the number of hole made in the canvas in a straight line is cut in half. There are some other great suggestions in this article by a fellow paintings conservator published on Golden's website:

    There is also a link to this article in the flexible supports section in our Resources section.

    Have you purchased premade, high quality canvases in the recent past? I believe that the use of staples is pretty standard unless one asks specifically for tacks. Perhaps others have a different experience. I may be somewhat out of the loop on this as I have always stretched my own canvasses except when I need something cheap for a non-permanent purpose, like a demonstration.

     If this were me and I had an issue with the tack on a canvas that I purchased, I would just add tacks along the outside edge. You could then decide whether you want to keep or remove the staples on the back.

    I am not sure what you mean by, "museums allowing art reproductions made under these conditions." I have made many copies of works in major museums in the US. Some museums require a resume and reference letters, some require you to be enrolled in a class associated with the collection, and others are more free with access. None has ever asked me about mt substrate. Now I have made very technical reconstructions of paintings for foundations and museums education department (see examples in our Resources section) and used very exacting and historically representative materials for these reconstructions. This was, however, a choice on my part and not a stipulation of the museum.

    Finally, as a conservator yourself, I am wondering if you will be at this year's American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works conference in Chicago. If so perhaps we can get together and talk more about this and reproductions of historical paintings.

    Baade, Brian
    2017-01-07 13:54:56
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentI prefer tacks myself, inserted on the sides of the stretcher (two rows diagonally offset for large canvases). Not only are they less potentially damaging to the fabric, tacks allow for easy removal when fine tuning distortion at the insertion points along the edges of the stretcher. I agree with the Moderator that diagonal insertion of staples is better than a row parallel to the stretcher side, not only to avoid a long stress wrinkle, but because it supports distribution of tension on the bias. Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2017-01-08 10:04:52
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentDear Brian, thank you for this very detailed answer. I would have loved exchanging with you about materials and techniques, unfortunately I am located in France. Which brings me to think that maybe that is why it may seem strange to you that I am being so picky about the way "it is being made". I find it very rare that a museum orders a copy, and when it is done, the best craftmen are asked for it. To my knowledge there is no need of a diploma. What means craftman, means traditionnal and exceptionnaly accurate techniques. This is why I am wondering how it can be that this producer is known to work for museums, and then swears to me that using staples and acrylic gesso is normal to him. I specifically chose him thinking he would know about traditional techniques. This makes me worrying a bit about the general state of craftmanship here, and what museums are asking for. I thought about arranging the canvas with tacks, but the back of the stretcher was so much perforated in all ways by the staples that it was useless. It also made me think about the real composition of the gesso they might have used, and finally I don't feel like encouraging this types of works - especially with the price asked, which was excessive for such a terrible work - which is the kind you find industrially made. I feel like I only paid the fact that it had special dimensions. About the website provided, thank you very much ! It proved to be very interesting. Publications are very hard to find on this subject in France ! Thank you again, S.G.
    2017-01-12 13:03:02
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentMatthew Kinsey, thank you for this answer, it is indeed good to know/confirm. Should you both have advice about your priming grounds recipes, I also prove to be very interested in the subject (obviously) and I would be interested in knowning if you found some tips or a better way than another to achieve a good traditional priming ground. Awaiting your answers, S.G
    2017-01-12 13:07:29

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