Canvas Painting. Canvas is an extremely durable plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other items for which sturdiness is required, as well as in such fashion objects as handbags, electronic device cases, and shoes. It is also popularly used by artists as a painting surface, typically stretched across a wooden frame. Modern canvas is usually made of cotton or linen, along with polyvinyl chloride, although historically it was made from hemp. It differs from other heavy cotton fabrics, such as denim, in being plain weave rather than twill weave. Canvas comes in two basic types: plain and duck. The threads in duck canvas are more tightly woven. The term duck comes from the Dutch word for cloth, doek. In the United States, canvas is classified in two ways: by weight and by a graded number system. The numbers run in reverse of the weight so a number 10 canvas is lighter than number 4. Canvas has become the most common support medium for oil painting, replacing wooden panels. It was used from the 14th century in Italy, but only rarely. One of the earliest surviving oils on canvas is a French Madonna with angels from around 1410 in the Gemaldegalerie, Berlin. The word canvas is derived from the 13th century Anglo-French canevaz and the Old French canevas. Both may be derivatives of the Vulgar Latin cannapaceus for made of hemp, originating from the Greek. Canvas has become the most common support medium for oil painting, replacing wooden panels. It was used from the 14th century in Italy, but only rarely. One of the earliest surviving oils on canvas is a French Madonna with angels from around 1410 in the Gemeldegalerie, Berlin. Its use in Saint George and the Dragon by Paolo Uccello in about 1470, and Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus in the 1480s was still unusual for the period. Large paintings for country houses were apparently more likely to be on canvas, and are perhaps less likely to have survived. It was a good deal cheaper than a panel painting, and may sometime indicate a painting regarded as less important. In the Uccello, the armour does not use silver leaf, as other of his paintings do. Another common category of paintings on lighter cloth such as linen was in distemper or glue, often used for banners to be carried in procession. This is a less durable medium, and surviving examples such as Dirk Bouts' Entombment, in distemper on linen are rare, and often rather faded in appearance. Panel painting remained more common until the 16th century in Italy and the 17th century in Northern Europe. Mantegna and Venetian artists were among those leading the change; Venetian sail canvas was readily available and regarded as the best quality. Canvas is typically stretched across a wooden frame called a stretcher and may be coated with gesso before it is to be used; this is to prevent oil paint from coming into direct contact with the canvas fibres, which will eventually cause the canvas to decay. A traditional and flexible chalk gesso is composed of lead carbonate and linseed oil, applied over a rabbit skin glue ground; a variation using titanium white pigment and calcium carbonate is rather brittle and susceptible to cracking. As lead-based paint is poisonous, care has to be taken in using it. Various alternative and more flexible canvas primers are commercially available, the most popular being a synthetic latex paint composed of titanium dioxide and calcium carbonate, bound with a thermo-plastic emulsion. Many artists have painted onto unprimed canvas, such as Jackson Pollock, Kenneth Noland, Francis Bacon, Helen Frankenthaler, Dan Christensen, Larry Zox, Ronnie Landfield, Color Field painters, Lyrical Abstractionists and others. Staining acrylic paint into the fabric of cotton duck canvas was more benign and less damaging to the fabric of the canvas than the use of oil paint. In 1970 artist Helen Frankenthaler commented about her use of staining: When I first started doing the stain paintings, I left large areas of canvas unpainted, I think, because the canvas itself acted as forcefully and as positively as paint or line or color. In other words, the very ground was part of the medium, so that instead of thinking of it as background or negative space or an empty spot, that area did not need paint because it had paint next to it. The thing was to decide where to leave it and where to fill it and where to say this doesn't need another line or another pail of colors. It's saying it in space. Early canvas was made of linen, a sturdy brownish fabric of considerable strength. Linen is particularly suitable for the use of oil paint. In the early 20th century, cotton canvas, often referred to as cotton duck, came into use.