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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Gesso \Ges"so\, n. [It., chalk, plaster.]

  1. Plaster of Paris, or gypsum, esp. as prepared for use in painting, or in making bas-reliefs and the like; by extension, a plasterlike or pasty material spread upon a surface to fit it for painting or gilding, or a surface so prepared.

  2. A work of art done in gesso. [Obs.]

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

plaster of Paris, 1590s, from Italian gesso, from Latin gypsum (see gypsum).


n. 1 A mixture of plaster of Paris and glue used to prepare a surface for painting. 2 A work of art done in gesso.


Gesso (; " chalk", from the , from ) is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these. It is used in artwork as a preparation for any number of substrates such as wood panels, canvas and sculpture as a base for paint and other materials that are applied over it.

Usage examples of "gesso".

Canvases have to be sized with this and then primed with gesso before one can paint on them.

It was done in black on a smooth gesso ground, on strong linen, a stark likeness which left its lines of completion to the eye of the beholder.

In those two Bouts pictures, in those when I prepared the canvas I laid linen threads on the gesso when it was still wet, you see?

All that moved in the room were his eyes, and his arm, touching with a pencil at the monochrome on the soiled surface of the gesso, pausing, rubbing the lines away with his thumb.

My mother, he admitted in a whisper, looking back at the picture on the soiled gesso, his face drawn up in lines of confusion as though he had just remembered.

Venice turpentine, and stand oil, burnt photographic prints, burnt canvas and tortured gesso until, when she woke, there was neither triumph nor dissension in the air she breathed, standing, looking round her, back to the bed suddenly, and round her again.

Without bothering to change out of her kimono, she grabbed a jar of gesso and commenced to white-out the picture.

Christmas Eve entry into the nonstop espresso machine of Manhattan, she had whited out with gesso all the nude portraits of Boomer Petway.

Only that northern scene, the lovely, faraway village with the fire forever frozen in gesso, proves to me the man ever existed.

A codex lay there, a parchment scroll made from the soft inner bark of a sunglass tree and painted with gesso, a smooth plaster.

For a long moment she stared at the texture of the pale ground, a mix of gesso and a light burnt ochre acrylic wash, then she took up a stick of charcoal and began to sketch the faces of the two dark-haired girls before the memory of them left her mind.

Propped against the wall there was another panel, unpainted but smooth and shiny with its beautifully prepared chalk gesso ground.

It was also evident that, in the past, Muslim marauders had often swept through Dun-huang, for many of the statues were in ruins, hacked apart, revealing their simple construction of gesso molded onto cane and reed armatures, or at the least were cruelly disfigured.

I paint the pictures onand I primed it with several coats of gesso to stiffen it and make it waterproof, and then I painted it all over with burnt-umber acrylic paint, which is a dark brown colour and also waterproof.

The color of the nails was turquoise, and the background skin tones were a gorgeous gesso of subdued gold and amber.