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Framing and Stretching Aboriginal Paintings


Many Aboriginal paintings are in acrylic paint on cotton or linen canvas, and they are stored and delivered rolled up. This is possible because, unlike ochre and some other natural pigments, acrylic paint is flexible and the painting can be rolled without damage (provided reasonable care is taken).

One of the most common ways to display an Aboriginal art work on canvas is simply to hang it on its stretcher frame - often no border or additional frame is needed.

A stretcher is a wooden support that a canvas is attached to for stability. A frame around the stretcher, in addition to complementing the appearance of the painting, provides extra support for the canvas.

A competent picture framer will be able to stretch the painting onto a stretcher frame quickly and economically. Alternatively, you can stretch the canvas yourself fairly easily once you know what to do and have the right tools and materials.

Making a Stretcher Frame

First you need to collect the necessary tools and materials: a stapler with staples (or hammer and tacks), stretcher strips (bars), and possibly also a pair of canvas pliers to grip the canvas (similar to ordinary pliers except they have a broader gripping area). In addition, a T-square is convenient to help make sure that the stretchers are square.

You can buy stretcher bars, staplers and stainless steel staples from art supply shops or framers.

Measure the size of the painted area that you want on display and cut the stretcher strips to size. Then assemble the stretcher frame using the strips, pushing the mitred ends into each other and gluing the joints.

One or more cross bars may be needed (one is shown in the diagram) depending on the size of the painting and the strength and stiffness of the stretcher bars.

Making a wooden stretcher frame

Check that the stretcher frame is square, either by using a T-square or by taking a tape measure and checking that the diagonal distances from opposing corners are equal. If these are equal, the frame is square. If there is a problem, correct it by attaching a small metal right-angle brace or a small right triangle of plywood on the inner frame corner.

For stretcher bars longer than 90 cm (36 inches), an inner brace should be inserted between the bars to support them from bowing inward after the canvas has been attached. This will also protect against frame distortion during periods of fluctuating humidity.

Part 2: Stretching a Canvas onto a Stretcher Frame Part 2 of Framing an aboriginal Painting


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