Close up of Claessens canvas

With over a century of experience in crafting high-quality artists' canvas, Claessens is recognised globally as a leader in the industry. Over the years many artists have recognised the desirable properties of a Claessens canvas and have used them as a base to create their artworks. The family-owned business based in Belgium has continued to honour the values of its founder, Victor Claessens, whose small-scale approach to producing using both modern and traditional techniques pioneered the production of Claessens canvas as we know them today. 

Where It All Began: 

The journey of each Claessens canvas begins at the company's Belgian headquarters, founded over a century ago by Victor Claessens, in the home of many accomplished Flemish painters and the flax growing region near the river Leie. Before the twentieth century, it had been normal for professional artists to prepare their canvas, however, as more and more amateurs tried their hand at painting, the demand for high-quality prepared canvases grew and Claessens quickly recognised this.

Although nowadays much of the work is done by machine, the core values of the production of Claessens canvas gas stayed the same. Each canvas goes through a rigorous production and treatment process to meet the specific needs of the artist and maintain the quality of the products. 

Claessens Artist’s canvas is woven from 100% pure flax (linen), 100% pure cotton, 100% pure jute, a mixture of linen and cotton, or a mixture of linen and jute. 

Claessens produces canvas mostly from flax, which is grown mainly in the district surrounding the river Leie. Canvases produced from flax have long spanned the history of art and have been trusted by notable Old Masters for their uncompromised quality and durability. 

When the fabric arrives at Claessens, it is meticulously checked for any weaving faults. Abnormalities and any uneven threads are removed, to guarantee and completely even texture.

The next step in the process is sizing the raw canvas by applying two coats of synthetic PVA glue. After each layer, the canvas is dried in a warm air dryer. 

Depending on the type of canvas, paints are then prepared to prime the various types on canvas (oil, acrylic, tempera). 

The canvas is then placed into a drying room for 2-3 days where it dries naturally. The canvas is then sanded and a coating layer based on titanium white is then applied to the canvas using two knives and a roller. The canvas is then placed back into the drying room for a further ten days to air dry. 

For universal-primed canvases, two coats are applied of acrylic-bound titanium white paint. This is done once with a knife and not rolled at the final stage.

Because this primer and coating are water-based, these canvases can be dried in a dry air oven, allowing the water to evaporate quickly.

The final step in the process is an inspection! Each canvas goes through a rigorous examination and quality control check, they are then put onto 10 metre rolls and stocked in the warehouse before shipment. 

Here at Bird and Davis, we’re the largest importers of Claessens cloth, each of which are vegan friendly. To take a full look at the complete range of Claessens Canvases, click here!


Claessens Canvas FAQ’s 

How can I prevent creases in the canvas?

Creases are bad for any canvas. Work carefully when stretching the canvas and keep any unused canvases rolled up. Slight creases will disappear during the stretching process, but heavier creases are almost impossible to eliminate!

What if the canvas gets loose?

When you stretch the canvas out in a humid environment, you run the risk of it slacking when placed in a dry environment. Therefore, always stretch your canvas in an area with as little humidity as possible. Temporarily stretching the canvas and letting it dry thoroughly before affixing it permanently is another solution. The natural fiber is at the longest when it is dry and it shrinks when the humidity rises. Given the natural properties of its fibers, the canvas reacts to both climatic conditions and the paint which is applied.

Can I still use older canvases?

Oil-prepared canvases tend to dry and become hard over time. Yet this does not make them totally unusable. You can paint on older canvases, but often it is harder to stretch them. You can slow down the ageing process by rolling up the canvas for storage and keeping it upright against a wall. Never store it flat on the ground or on a table.

How exactly are oil-prepared canvases made?

Claessens takes the greatest care in producing its oil-prepared canvases. Synthetic glue, which is less sensitive to humidity, is used rather than hide glue. We have not used white lead for many years, in accordance with Belgian and European legislation. The coating itself consists of an oil paint, linseed oil as a binder and chalk, zinc white or titanium white as grounds and pigments.

What about cracks around the edges?

Older oil-prepared canvases may get cracks along the edges of the canvas stretcher. These are entirely superficial and are related to the ageing process, so there is no need to worry. This will have no effect on the painting. At worst, this area will have increased absorbency, but the double layer of glue should protect the fibers adequately.

Can I stretch a slack canvas using water?

Avoid doing this at all costs: it is bad for the painting. When a canvas gets slack, you can easily fix it by adjusting the wedges in the corners. If this does not work, you can always consider removing the canvas and stretching it again following the rules of the art. Do not use water because water will only temporarily tighten the canvas, it will slacken again once it is dry.

What is the best way of storing a stretched canvas?

Lean the stretched canvas in an upright position against a wall. Do not lean smaller canvases against larger ones as this can lead to denting. It is best to store the canvases according to size, back to back and front to front.

How can I get rid of the yellow discoloration?

The front of oil-prepared canvases can occasionally have yellow discoloration. This is caused by the linseed oil when there is not enough daylight around. This can also happen when one canvas is placed in front of another for a long period of time. This discoloration is a natural phenomenon and will rapidly disappear when the canvas is once again exposed to daylight or sunlight.

Is there a way of preventing slight dimples?

Slight dimples in the canvas can be caused by small differences in tension in the fabric during manufacturing. The only way to get rid of such dimples is to stretch the canvas harder. Sometimes you can see such dimples on the sides of the canvas rolls. You can solve this problem by cutting these sides.

What if the canvas is too smooth?

If the canvas is too smooth for your taste, you can roughen it up using a pumice stone or very fine sandpaper. Try to work as evenly as possible across the entire surface area of the canvas.

How hard can I stretch my canvas?

Always stretch the canvas as evenly as possible. How hard you stretch it is a question of personal preference. Some painters prefer a very taut canvas while others do not. The following is one of the methods you can use:

  • centre the canvas carefully on the frame
  • affix it temporarily, for example by the corners
  • start in the middle of one side and work toward the edges
  • use a nail or a staple every 4 - 8 cm
  • now work on the opposite side and stretch the canvas using a canvas plier.
  • use the same method for the third and fourth sides
  • while stretching; check the front or finished canvas continually to ensure the stretch is correct otherwise make adjustments as needed.
  • do the corners last
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