Shaped canvas  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Shaped canvases are paintings that depart from the normal flat, rectangular configuration. Canvases may be shaped by altering their contours, while retaining their flatness. An ancient, traditional example is the tondo, a painting on a round canvas: Raphael, as well as some other Renaissance painters, sometimes chose this format for madonna paintings. Alternatively, canvases may be altered by losing their flatness and assuming a three dimensional surface. Or, they can do both. That is, they can assume shapes other than rectangles, and also have surface features that are three dimensional. Arguably, changing the surface configuration of the painting transforms it into a sculpture. But shaped canvases are generally considered paintings.

Apart from any aesthetic considerations, there are technical matters, having to do with the very nature of canvas as a material, that tend to support the flat rectangle as the norm for paintings on canvas. (See Departing from the rectangular below.)

In the literature of art history and criticism, the term shaped canvas is particularly associated with certain works created mostly in New York after about 1960, during a period when a great variety and quantity of such works were produced. According to the commentary at a Rutgers University exhibition site, "... the first significant art historical attention paid to shaped canvases occurred in the 1960s...."

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Shaped canvas" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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