Art Term


Canvas is a strong, woven cloth traditionally used by artists as a support (surface on which to paint)

Commonly made of either linen or cotton thread, but also manufactured from man-made materials such as polyester.

Shaped canvas

A shaped canvas is a canvas that is not the traditional rectangular shape. Although there have been many examples of irregular shaped canvases throughout the history of art, the term gained currency in the 1960s and tends to be associated with a type of geometric abstract painting that came to prominence in the late 1950s early 1960s. Artists like Frank Stella used the edges of irregular shaped canvases to define the form of the painting. Ellsworth Kelly and Jeremy Moon also notably experimented with shaped canvases.

Shaped canvas also raised questions about the painting as an object in its own right, not as something representative or illustrative of something else. In this sense shaped canvas paintings are sometimes described as sculptures.

  • Format

    Format is traditionally used to describe the shape or proportions of the support, for example the canvas, of a painting or other essentially flat work of art such as a relief

Explore this term

  • Paintings on Canvas: Lining and Alternatives

    Stephen Hackney

    This paper catalogues major changes in attitude during the last thirty years to conservation practice for the treatment of degraded painting canvases and outlines current practice at Tate. Changing aims and ethics of conservation provide new challenges and opportunities: the key to progress lies in a better understanding of the structural mechanics and degradation processes of stretched canvas paintings.

  • Burn, canvas, burn

    William Jeffett

    While the work of Joan Miró (1893–1983) may be well known across the world, a forthcoming exhibition at Tate Modern that focuses on his political engagement, his Catalan identity, the Spanish Civil War and the rise and fall of Franco’s regime aims to change the view of this popular artist. One of the most dramatic examples of Miró’s response to this context was his series Burnt Canvases, done late in his life