Conservation scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Lab caution painters that rabbit skin glue swells & absorbs atmospheric moisture on damp days & gives off moisture on dry days & shrinks. This movement causes aged paintings on fabric supports to crack. The advice is to use on board backed supports only.
Glue sizing & oil priming are the traditional method of preparing canvas for oil painting. The size is made by dissolving 8 level tablespoons of rabbit skin glue in 1 litre of cold water. Soak until all the water has been absorbed by the glue & has a consistency of porridge - 1 hour to overnight. Then stir & gently heat in a double boiler until the glue dissolves - do not boil. Apply to the canvas while still warm - not hot - with a stiff brush. The size acts as a penetrating liquid which fills the pores of the canvas & isolates it from subsequent layers of primer & oil paint.
Another valuable use for this size is to repair damaged canvasses that have stretched depressions - in this case apply the glue to the reverse of the canvas which will shrink it.
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