Day 18: Craquelure

Word of the Day:



a network of fine cracks or crackles on the surface of a painting, caused chiefly by shrinkage of paint film or varnish.

(Insert placeholder paragraph so the definition is distinguishable from my bit o’ writing.)

Mama says that you can always tell how old one of Grandpa’s paintings is based on the craquelure. She’ll point to one so webbed with little cracks you can barely even tell what the picture’s of anymore and say, “See, this is a real early one, from back when Grandpa was at college and just starting to paint.” Then there might be one that’s half-lined, half-not, to which she’ll say, “This one he painted halfway through his life, when your aunts and uncles and I were coming along and life was good.” At the very end of the row are a few paintings which have scarcely any lines on them at all. Mama frowns at them, and murmurs, “These are the newest ones. The last ones. He painted these when your grandma was dying.”

She’s said it for as long as I can remember – you’ll what time the paintings came from if you look at the level of decay. “Some paintings this age don’t look this bad,” she’ll add from time to time, gesturing at one or another of them (it doesn’t matter which). “But your grandpa always bought cheap varnish, and that was when he invested in it at all. Just a hobby, he’d say. No use spending too much money on a hobby.”

Sometimes, though, I wonder whether it’s really the craquelure that she’s looking at. There are other ways of telling where in a lifetime a painting came from, after all.

I lead a friend through the house, pointing out Grandpa’s paintings as I go. I point to ones done all in bright colors, depicting sunrises and clear skies and towering mountains. “Grandpa painted those when he was at college,” I say. I touch the frames of the paintings of women holding babies, and cultivated gardens, and park benches. “He did these while he was raising his family. They’re my favorites.” I pause in front of an image of dark woods underneath a stormy sky. There are monsters lurking beneath the trees; you can’t see them, but you can’t deny they’re there. “And this one’s from when my grandma was dying,” I say softly.

Mama’s standing in the kitchen doorway. As I walk past, I catch her eye and know she heard me. She smiles.

Alrighty. Back over to you, Cara.


4 thoughts on “Day 18: Craquelure

  1. The craquelure was the hard part, really. The painting was easy enough, once you figured out the materials and techniques, but replicating the craquelure took brains. All the existing techniques were too perfect—a well-organized network of cracks instead of the unique web that came with authentic paintings. No one wanted to wait 550 years for a fake da Vinci, after all…


    I know it’s short. I know it took me 3 1/2 minutes. Just. Deal with it, okay?

    Thanks to Wikipedia for info about craquelure in art forgeries:

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