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Stand on which a painting is supported while the artist works on it. The oldest representation of an easel is on an Egyptian relief of the Old Kingdom (c.2700–c.2150 bc). Renaissance illustrations of the artist at work show all kinds of contrivances, the commonest being the three-legged easel of a type still used today, with pegs to support the picture. Lightweight folding easels were not made until the 18th and 19th centuries, when painters took to working out of doors. The studio easel, a 19th-century invention, is a heavy piece of furniture that runs on castors or wheels, and served to impress the clients of portrait painters. Oil painters need an easel that will support the canvas almost vertically or tip it slightly forward to prevent reflection from the wet paint, whereas the watercolourist must be able to lay his paper nearly flat so that the wet paint will not run down. The term ‘easel painting’ is applied to any picture small enough to have been painted on a standard easel.

Subjects: Art.

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