Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Harriette V. Bartoo

Second Advisor

Dr. Richard W. Pippen

Third Advisor

Dr. Leo C. Vander Beek

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access



Uses of Biologically-derived Products in Painting

Throughout history man has relied heavily on plant-derived materials in the production of paintings. Plant products have been used to fulfill each of the material requirements of painting. The ground or surface upon which an artist applies paint -is usually of plant origin, such as woven fabrics and paper. The ancient Egyptians painted on canvas (from Linum usitatissimum L.), papyrus, (from Cyperus papyrus L.), and wood (Lucas, 1934:149-150, 201-203; Laurie, 1910:17, 31-32).

At the time of Theophilus leather parchment, preferably of horsehide, was popular for painting (Bazzi, 1960:13). After parchment, walls and wooden panels were most important for medieval painting. Usually solid panels of native woods were employed. In northern Europe the old masters favored oak (Quercus), linden (Tilia), pine (Pinus), fir (Abies), larch (Larix), birch (Betula), beech (Fagus), walnut (Juglans), and ash (Fraxinus), In Italy and the south of Europe chestnut (Castanea sativa L.), poplar (Populus), arid cypress: (Cupressus, probably Italian cypress, Cupressus sempervirens, L.) were most used. Panels of cedar (various members of the Pinaceae), olive {Olea europaea L.), and pear (Pyrus communis L.) wood were also popular (Bazzi., 1960:13; Taubes, 1964: 18; Doerner, 1962:33). Panels were selected for density and firmness and required lengthy processing. The old masters placed panels under running water for long periods of time to remove resins, gums, and tannins. Today this is accomplished by steam treatment (Bazzi, 1960:13). Also, panels must be exposed to air and dried for a year or more to prevent shrinkage and warping. Paintings on wood panels have been better preserved than canvas paintings and can be repaired more easily (Taubes, 1964:16).

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