Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Vernissage. Its a pity we don't have them.

The Russian artist, Stas Borodin, told me about the vernissage. Being of French decent, I knew it had something to do with varnishing, but I didn't quite understand the full implication of the word until he enlightened me. For those of us in the States, it isn't a celebrated process and many of us are unfamiliar with it.

Oil paintings should dry for a year or more before varnishing. Stas spoke of a wonderful exhibition around the process of preserving your paintings. When an artists had a "varnissage" the works were hung on display and a typical "opening" was held. People came to look at the art.

Lots and lots of people came.

That night after the crowds left, all the paintings were taken down, pulled from their frames and varnished. The following night the people returned to view the same paintings under their brand new coat of shiny varnish! The colors transformed. The depth and richness increased in every painting. The people gathered to discuss how magnificent the improvement was on the works. Paintings they fell in love with the night before were now even more spectacular! It was a wonderful celebration of works, as they come to their final point of completion.

Even the artists haven't seen the full scope of their accomplishment, until this moment. Varnish enhancing the pigments.

I hurried around the other day, preparing my paintings for the gallery. In a crazy procession, I parade my paintings to the backyard where I spray them with retouch varnish. Its very common for me to wait until framing time to spray them, so there were many to do. In and out of the house, back and forth to the backyard, spray and return. The process is like a marathon.

Afterwards, with all the works back in the house, I was stopped by the change in my art. How different they all looked! It reminded me of the varnissage that Stas spoke about, but no one was here to experience it but me...

In other cultures, artists are revered. Art is taught and the people understand and appreciate it. Here its the first program along with music to be cut from schools when the budget is tight. Our openings are often a collection of family and friends. Getting people to come is challenging enough. Everyone is so busy. Can you imagine them returning the following night??? It would never happen here.

It is a pity.

So next time you're varnishing your art, all by yourself, stop for a moment and enjoy the transformation it takes as you bring it to its final point of completion. Perhaps you'll remember the celebrations people had over this event. Maybe next time I can stop viewing it as a chore and can appreciate its significance.

Enjoy painting as well as spraying!

Posted: Inspiration 16x12" Original oil painting (older work) by Susan Roux


  1. Dear Susan, Thanks for sharing this wonderful bit of art history. Although I went through the process of getting an MFA I never heard of "vernissage." Love visiting your blog and so enjoy your art

  2. Susan,

    it is highly interesting to know about vernissage...
    the art of enjoying artworks is a part of culture...
    the past always has something precious which we always forget to preserve...

    thanks you...

  3. Interesting post Susan. Don't know if I could get everyone who came to a show to come back for a second time to see the changes varishing makes.
    Have been there though with the in and out for varnishing.
    That is a greatlooking painting you have posted.

  4. I had heard of this celebration of varnishing ..wouldn't it e cool if we had that here. Enjoyed your blog today

  5. Vernissage, mot usuel pour moi! Le vernissage est toutefois le mot qu'on utilise pour nommé le cocktail-réception à l'occasion d'une présentation artistique.
    On n'utilise pas ce mot pour l'acte de vernir les toiles.
    Mais comme tu as raison de dire qu'une fois vernies nos toiles nous restituent toute leur puissance.

  6. Nice post Susan, thank you for the lesson. I am appalled at how the arts are not appreciated or taught to students anymore. I remember having art class everyday in school, now my son will have it only once every 3 days IF it doesn't get cut from the budget. So sad... but I will teach him.

  7. Another marvellous blog thank you. It is a shamethat education seems to value only those things that they feel are of value. As a teacher of philosophy and world religions I was constantly having to fight for my subject.

  8. You always uplift me as an artist. Thank you for posting this - good to be reminded how valuable art is to our culture.

  9. I enjoyed this post and found it quite fascinating - thank you for all this information and a bit of art history. Your work is beautiful Susan


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