Triptych Art And The Beauty Of Painting With Multiple Canvases
Painting on multiple canvases or polyptych painting has been around for a long time. By the Middle Ages, paintings on multiple panels were the norm for Christian art. In Europe, it became popular during the Renaissance. In Japan, it was favoured by Ukiyo-e printmakers during the Edo period. Recently, this style of painting and photography has become popular once again thanks to its beauty, scope and impact. One of the appealing aspects of paintings with multiple canvases is that it can be used for a variety of art styles, from contemporary canvases to realism.
The History Of Triptych
European painters began painting with multiple canvases because they were creating altarpieces. These were works designed to hang around the altar in churches. There would be one main piece in the centre and then flanking side panels. This arrangement is why triptychs (meaning three-fold), in particular, became so popular.
So why have artists continued to paint one painting on multiple canvases? The reasons are often nuanced and layered, but some of the most common factors are as follows.
Interest – Splitting a single painting across multiple canvases can make a familiar subject suddenly more fascinating. The arrangement of the pictures can be used to add further interest and to play with space.
Cost – Often, within the creative world, limitations force creativity to flourish. Large canvases are much more expensive, so creating the same area of artwork on smaller canvases is a cheaper option.
Scale – Working with large canvases is difficult. Not only during creation but also when it comes time to move and install the work. So, if an artist wants to make a genuinely expansive work, they will often use multiple canvases.
Storytelling – Painting with multiple canvases allows for a different type of storytelling. Every work of art has a story to tell, and this style allows the artist to say more than with a single piece. Tryptych art is among the most popular for this reason. There is a beginning, a middle and an end.
Three Famous Triptychs
If you want an introduction to the wonder and creativity that can be expressed through triptych art, then here are a few great works of art to look at.
The Garden of Earthly Delight – Hieronymus Bosch
Like many great masterworks, there is little agreement about what this painting is trying to communicate. It is either a warning about the dangers of immorality or a celebration of the joy of physical pleasure. The work is astoundingly intricate and follows the style of the time of starting with Eden and ending in the Last Judgement.
Water Lilies Series – Claude Monet
Monet was a fan of triptych work, and this is one of his most ambitious pieces. When placed together, the whole piece is a staggering 42ft in length. It is a beautiful rendering of the Lily of the Nile plants that filled his garden at Giverny.
Three Studies Of Lucian Freud – Francis Bacon
In 2013, this famous triptych sold for a record-breaking $142.4 million. Francis Bacon painted the piece in 1969 and creatively shows the friendship of the two artists. Christies describes the painting as ‘an undeniable icon of 20th Century art’. Each canvas is 78 inches by 58 inches.