Tag Archives: California Visionary Art

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

Art Critics: ​Keeping Art In Its Proper Framework

Art critics evaluate art in a historical context. They see the big, overall picture of what is going on in a culture during the specific time it is created. The most successful art is a reflection of the zeitgeist of its creator. It is the art critic that is able to spot a movement.

An example would be what came to be known as California Visionary Art. This is an area of surrealism that came after Pop Art and after the Psychedelic Album Cover Art Movement of the 1960’s. It included Gage TaylorBill MartinNick HydeCliff McReynoldsJoseph ParkerThomas Akawie, and Sheila Rose.

Art critic and curator, Walter Hopps, noticed a new kind of style popping up in art competitions. It had a spiritual, fantasy element to it but it was not illustration or sentimental. It reflected the human potential movement and spiritual awakening happening in California in the 1970’s. It’s important to remember these were artists painting spiritual or drug-induced awakenings before special effects, computers, or CGI. They were seeing the world in a new way and sought to share that vision.

True art movements appear simultaneously by artists tapping into something energetically. They are usually unaware of one another. Based on Walter Hopps observation as a critic, California Visionary Art was curated into exhibits at the SmithsonianThe Whitney Museum in NY, The San Francisco Museum of Modern ArtThe Paris Biennale, The India Triennale among many others. It appeared in books and Gage Taylor’s work was highlighted in magazines such as Newsweek (July 11, 1977) & Omni (September 7, 1979 page 38).

When an artist gets a bad review for his work it is usually because he is not being authentic to his time or himself.

Many artists were influenced by California Visionary Art and the first two or three generations were part of the spiritual awakening happening at the time; the ashrams, the gurus, the meditation groups, the groups focusing on peace towards people and animals (vegetarianism), the awakening of Buddhism in the West.

By the 4th generation, we see people painting unicorns and rainbows with garish colors with sickly sweet sentimentality. These artists adapted the “persona” of a movement but were not “authentic” to the movement. This work is not collectible and critics see it for what it is, derivative.

Art critics have years of art history education under their belt and even experience viewing, curating, or judging artwork for exhibitions. They can spot an artist copying another artist in an instant.

Gage Taylor, California Visionary Artist


Art Credit: Collage (Detail) by Robin Isely