Art Term


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

Lucio Fontana, ‘Spatial Concept ‘Waiting’’ 1960
Lucio Fontana
Spatial Concept ‘Waiting’ 1960
© Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan

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.

Related terms


Format is traditionally used to describe the shape or proportions of the support, for example the canvas, of a painting ...

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Tate Papers

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 ...

Tate Etc

Burn, canvas, burn: Joan Miró

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While the work of Joan Miró (1893–1983) may be well known across the world, a forthcoming exhibition at Tate ...