Picasso, Van Gogh, Degas, and Da Vinci may have had different styles when it came to their work, but they did have one thing in common - they all recycled canvases from time to time. One of the main reasons for recycling was often a lack of funds to purchase new canvases. Although I am not so short of funds that I cannot purchase new canvases I am taking a page out of their books and recycling a canvas of my own. The canvas above was one I actually put together myself in college. I had started a painting of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy but became disenchanted with it part way through so I painted over it with gesso. Little did I know how many artists did the same thing!
How do we know that artists reused their canvases, now that they're long gone? Well, with the amazing advances in technology over the years researchers have been able to see the sketches and older paintings underneath the works of the masters using specific x-ray images. These non-invasive techniques allow scholars to see what's hidden by analyzing the different chemical elements of the pigments used by the artist. The images sometimes reveal sketches that are variations of the final painting, showing how the artist made changes to the composition along the way. Other images reveal completely different paintings altogether, like the one found under Picasso's La Misereuse Accroupie. Conservators are usually the first to pick up the hints of these hidden treasures because they are the ones that have to get extremely close to the canvases in order to preserve and restore them. I find that really fascinating!
As of this posting, I haven't decided what I'm going to paint over my old canvas, but it will be interesting to see if one day someone discovers what's hidden underneath. Needless to say, by then I most likely will not be around but if anyone does want to go peeking underneath the layers of paint, maybe this post will also be discovered and will help solve the mystery! ha ha
Have you ever reused your canvases? What other ways do you recycle and reuse materials around your studio?