Ask anyone to conjure up an image of a painter’s canvas and chances are they’ll picture a rectangular one. The rectangle’s dominance is as much a technical matter as an aesthetic one—canvas is easiest to stretch on a squared-off frame. But something as simple as changing the shape of a canvas can have an enormous impact on the work. Many attribute the advent of the shaped canvas to the turn-of-the-century Constructivist movement and artists like Peter Laszlo Peri, who challenged the conventional idea of painting and mounting surfaces, but simple shapes like the Florentine tondo, a circle, were popular long before that. In the mid 20th century, a period of great experimentation, many artists tried the transformative power of the shaped canvas. Whatever your style, finding a good, taut canvas is essential. Below are five recommendations that will have you covered.
1. Fredrix Stretched Canvas
You rarely go wrong when you turn to a Fredrix canvas, and the company’s 16-by-12-inch oval option is no exception. The medium-texture cotton duck canvas is double-primed with a versatile acrylic titanium gesso that works well for both acrylics and oil paints. The fabric is attached without staples to a smooth, pressed-wood frame in the back, leaving a clean edge that can be displayed even without any external framing. This is our top option as the shape is still relatively traditional, so planning a composition isn’t overly challenging.
2. U.S. Art Supply Round Stretched Canvas
U.S. Art Supply’s round canvases are also excellent options for most paints and are notably great for heavy, paint-intensive projects like acrylic pours. These canvases are triple-primed with acrylic gesso, so they hold up well even with lots of wet paint on them, and they even weather being scraped and repainted. The canvas is stapled to the frame in back, which keeps it taut and in place and allows you to re-tighten it if needed (though it’s a tricky task on a round frame). As a bonus, you can feel good that the wood used in the frame and stretcher bars comes from environmentally managed forests.
3. Masterpiece Artist Canvas, Triangle
Triangular canvases are slightly more unconventional than round canvases, but they make for an arresting shape for a single painting. These can also be used as tesserae to form larger works. Made by Masterpiece, an American company in business since 1965, this professional-grade, pre-stretched canvas is made with solid wood bars and 10-ounce cotton canvas that’s already primed with one coat of sizing and three coats of archival-quality gesso. Tightly stretched with a balanced tension, it won’t pucker or warp.
4. Ivon Round Canvas
For classrooms and other settings where controlling costs is a priority, Ivon’s pack of four canvases will do the trick. Each set comes with two 8-inch rounds and two 12-inch rounds. The surface comes primed and can be painted with acrylics or oils. Though the canvas is not as high in quality as some costlier options, they hold paint well and can stand up to a lot.
5. Masterpiece Artist Canvas, Hexagon
Like the Masterpiece product above, every bit of this hexagonal canvas is well thought-out, from the North American wood that is free from imperfections (and sourced from growers who meet environmental standards) to the triple-primed canvas. The canvas is stapled in back, but artists can re-stretch it if necessary. The surface features a medium tooth and is drum-tight, thanks to the manufacturer’s proprietary and unique machinery.