When Was Canvas First Used in Painting?

A tripod easel, Mrs. Scarborough

Canvas is a popular material for both oil, and acrylic paints. While it is a common commodity today, artists have not always had the option to use it. As art commissioners began to solicit artists from across Europe, the need for new portable materials became a necessity.


Historians believe that canvas was first used in oil painting during the Renaissance period around the year A.D. 1500. Prior to this, paintings were often painted on heavy wooden planks.


Italy served as the epicenter of the art world during the Renaissance. So, it is only fitting that the port city of Venice is credited as the first place canvas was used.


Canvas was originally made out of hemp. It was woven into a tight weave for strength and durability.


Since Venice was a port city, and the shipping trade was booming during the 1500s, canvas was readily available. Canvas was used in many products, including sails and tents; it was in great demand for a variety of uses. The Venetian artists had no problem locating enough canvas to paint as many paintings as they desired.


Since canvas was originally created for sails and tents, it was a very strong material. Canvas was durable enough to hold the semi-caustic oil paint, so it was a perfect medium for all artists.