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Gesso (Italian pronunciation: [dʒɛsːo] chalk, from Latin: plaster, in Greek: γύψος) is a white color mixture consisting of a binding agent with gypsum , chalk , pigment or a combination of these binding agents and describes the traditional priming on canvases . In art, the mixture is used in preparation on various surfaces such as wooden panels, canvases and sculptures as a basis for paints and other materials.

Acrylic gesso

Gesso is the generic term for a substance made from rabbit skin glue and whiting chalk (calcium carbonate). The term is the Italian derivation of the Latin word gypsum . It is used as a gesso grosso or gesso sottile with various additions, both for the priming of panel paintings and for the sculptural design of picture frames , as a base for the hand gilding of picture frames ( gesso da inorare ) and as a substitute for carved wood.


The recipe was first mentioned by Cennino Cennini (approx. 1370–1440) in the book Libro dell'arte o trattato della peintura , probably published around 1400, and has remained almost unchanged since then. Cennini also described the casting of sculptures using a metal hollow mold . What is certain, however, is that Gesso already played a major role in the production of Greek art .

In Egypt, gypsum stores were dismantled in Faijum in the early dynastic period. Gypsum appears in crystal form in many places on the desert surface. It was used as a wall and ceiling cover and as a painting base in houses, temples and graves. Even mummy coffins received begipste surface (Gesso), sometimes Stuck called for further painting.

Nowadays, Gesso mostly refers to lightfast and age-resistant acrylic chalk grounds that are used to prime textile and solid painting grounds in oil , gouache , acrylic and watercolor painting .

Traditional gesso

Gesso, also known as Leimgesso or Italian Gesso, is a traditional mixture of an animal glue binder, chalk and white pigment. This glue is often used as a coating of rigid surfaces such as painting palettes and as a substrate or absorbent for priming in painting. The color of the gesso (glue) is usually white to ivory. The absorption capacity of the gesso makes it possible to work with all kinds of paints, including water-based paints. It is also used on three-dimensional objects as a surface for applying paint or gold leaf. Mixing and application is time-consuming, as ten or more thin layers usually have to be applied. The glue primer is a permanent and bright white primer on wood, hardboard and other surfaces. The pure hide glue mixture is brittle, prone to cracking and is therefore only suitable for rigid surfaces. An emulsion made from gesso and linseed oil (also called semi-chalk ground) is used to prime flexible canvases. In geology, the Italian gesso corresponds to the English gypsum and is a calcium sulfate mineral (CaSO4 · 2H2O).

Acrylic gesso

The modern acrylic gesso is a widely used primer consisting of calcium carbonate with an acrylic polymer (medium latex), pigments and other chemicals, thereby increasing flexibility and service life. The non-absorbent acrylic polymer base makes it possible to paint with utensils such as egg tempera. In order for the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) to retain its capacity as a primer layer, titanium dioxide or titanium white is often added as an optical brightener. This keeps Gesso flexible enough to be used on canvases.

Acrylgesso can be colored by adding another pigment such as carbon black or an acrylic paint. If a small amount of ammonia and / or formaldehyde is added as a preservative, the plaster of paris can smell unpleasant. Canvas manufacturers typically prime their canvases with gesso.


Web links

Commons : Art made from gypsum  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Albert Knoepfli , Oskar Emmenegger, André Meyer, Manfred Koller : wall painting, mosaic . P. Reclam Jr., 1997.