Tag Archives: Art History

Craquelure: History’s Crack In Time

Time and climate are not our friends when it comes to paintings or our skin. Craquelure is the network of fine cracks that appear in the skin of a painting. Many things can cause these cracks.

Sadly, much like the human face, cracks occurring in the paint layers or ground are usually indicative of age or stress. Instead of the scull, these cracks run through the layers of a painting. They take the form of a dense network of fine fissures which run in straight or slightly curved lines. Think laugh lines.

Sometimes they happen because of the oxidation process, others can occur within the dried and fully polymerized (non elastic) layers of paint.

In modern paintings, it’s usually the consequence of using poor materials.

Crazing is when the cracks appear in varnish but have not yet penetrated through the layers of paint. This usually happens when improperly prepared varnish mixtures have lost their bond. These types of cracks can usually be removed by removing the varnish.

Drying cracks are not the same as aging cracks.

Drying cracks include flame cracks that are small and short, often from paint dotted with a brush after painting.

Brushstroke cracks occur in areas covered with really thin paint. Lean chalk grounds cause spiral cracks and paints on thin canvas.

Grid cracks are found only in 19th and 20th century paintings and are caused by painting on smoother grounds.

Net cracks, named after their appearance, happen when the paint has been manipulated and applied in many directions on a structured canvas.

Drying cracks in varnish are pale and extend down through the paint as far as the ground, but not into the ground. They are always the result of painting technique.

Peace on Earth by Gage Taylor and Uriel Dana Craquelure
Peace On Earth (after Canigliano), 1995, by Uriél Dana & Gage Taylor. © 1995-2018 Uriél Dana

Craquelure can also be caused by mechanical stresses. Forgers, after using ovens to dry and harden oil paint can roll a painting over a cylinder.

Picture distortions create cracks when something has pressed the canvas from the back or even a forger using their fingers.

Aging of the picture layer, micro pores and micro-fissures (aka blanching), and stresses caused by tension and pressure can also cause cracking.

Cracks on wood panel paintings create garland cracks, diagonal cracks, spiral and corn ear cracks caused by pressure.

To make things even more complicated there are also artificial craquelure done for effect. I used a product called Vernis a Craqueler by a French company for an exhibit I did with the late Gage Taylor called “Alien X-mas” at Anon Salon in San Francisco. It is a two step process using oil and water based varnishes to get the effect. The painting was called “Peace on Earth”.


Art Credit: Mona Lisa by Leonard DaVinci, detail of craquelure

Women In the Arts: Drawing New Boundaries

© Uriél Dana 2017

When I began my painting career artists did not have the luxury of the Internet. We sent slides to galleries and publishers, waiting weeks for our precious and expensive images to be returned in our self addressed and stamped return envelopes.

Women artists were not welcomed as they are today. Luckily, few knew if I was a male or female by my first name. It was a great advantage. By the time my work was accepted, galleries could not decline the art if they discovered I was a woman. It may seem ridiculous, but they were different times.

There has always been an underlying and widespread belief that women were not as good as men in the arts or there would be more of them in the history books. People often mistake the lack of visibility of women in the arts with women not being great artists.

Only now with restoration techniques and the global access of diligent art historians are we finding treasures created by women in the vaults of museums and churches. We are learning just how many creations of famous artists were in fact made by their wives and daughters. It is even believed that the ancient cave paintings around the world were likely painted by women.

Women in the past were rarely allowed to train in the arts. They were allowed to do pottery, weaving, and textile arts such as needlepoint but they were limited to still lifes or florals. They were also allowed to “create for love”, the original meaning of the world amateur.

These restrictions were because women were not allowed to look at the human body. (This was also a hurdle with women trying to become medical doctors). Drawing a man’s genitalia would quite literally make her an outcast for life.

When tight boundaries for women are removed they excel in all of the arts. Artemisia Gentileschi, the daughter of a painter, became the first woman member of the Accademia dell’Arte. (Unfortunately, she did so before her artist husband. We can imagine how much fun that was…)

Elisabeth Vigée LeBrun was the daughter of two artists and had royal patronage by the time she was 14. She painted royalty across Europe and Russia but became most known for painting Marie Antoinette and the French aristocracy. It was no picnic. She complains in her autobiography about having to work like a slave to pay for herself, her daughter, her teachers, the maid, a domestic, a carriage, a cook, a household, travel expenses and a husband fond of fancy dress.

In Holland, Judith Leyster was only allowed to study painting after her banker father went bankrupt. She not only bailed her father out financially with her talent, but she supported her whole family. To add insult to injury nearly every painting she did was misattributed to Frans Hals. The list goes on and on.

I was very fortunate to have an extended apprenticeship with one of the six originators of what came to known as California Visionary Art. Years later I married him. However, much like Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau, I had established my own art career before risking being in the shadow of another. Owning our own voice as an artist will keep us out of the shadows. We have the pens, the pencils, and the brushes to draw our own boundaries when it comes to being a woman in the arts.

Boundaries are rarely designed with a straight edge; they have nooks and crannies and soft areas. Each time I was able to get my foot in the door as a woman I left a shoe there to keep it open for another. Artists, male and female, need to nurture one another, not compete. Creativity does not flourish with a closed heart or mind.

It is said, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heals”. Being a woman artist in the 21st century is very much the same.

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Featured Image: Academy of Realist Art (ARA), Toronto, Canada.

Losing Heart

© Uriél Dana 2015.

An artist I know recently threw out years of meticulously produced work. He spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours for an exhibit and no one bought one piece. My heart broke for him because anyone who creates knows how vulnerable that create/share space can be.

These are my words to him, myself, and to every artist.

“Art use to make people feel the wonder of life and the connectedness of us all. With PC’s at home and on our phones, an illusion of being alone or separate has taken over.  A gluttony of digital images has made people blind and being accosted with over produced noise has made us deaf.  This psychic water boarding is raping the cultural heart from our world and in 15 years we will be planet IKEA.  Be the caretaker of your own creative treasure for the future”.

You can see more of my artwork here.

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Artwork: “Losing Heart“, Uriél Dana, ©2008.  Conté on Board