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a network of surface cracks. Crackle in coatings such as paint, varnish, and lacquer may be caused by aging, in response to changes in relative humidity, or in response to mechanical stress, like a sharp blow. On easel paintings, combinations of crackle caused by all of the factors may be seen in a single work of art or artifact. Networks of cracks develop within a glaze on a ceramic due to differential shrinkage rates between the glaze and the ceramic body during firing. When this was done intentionally, the resulting pattern is referred to as crackle. The terms craquele and crack network are used to describe similar phenomena on stone surfaces. (Vergès-Belmin 2008)

While the term in French, craquelure, is used in the English as a synonym, crackle is the preferred term in the English language according to the Getty's Art and Architecture thesaurus. (AAT 2004)

Crackle in the glaze of a ceramic vessel
Crackle in paint on wood
Crackle pattern in a painted surface. Image courtesy of The Fine Arts Conservancy.

Related Terms[edit | edit source]

crazing; drying crackle; traction crackle; alligator crackle; alligatoring; mechanical cracks; impact cracks

Synonyms in English[edit | edit source]

reticulation; crackle pattern; craquelure

Translation[edit | edit source]

English crackle
French craquelure
Spanish craquelado
Portuguese craquelê
Chinese (Traditional) 龜裂

Discussion[edit | edit source]

In 1974, George Stout proposed a set of terms to describe cracks in paint films, describing them as branched, kinked, forked, barbed, and coiled, and the manner of their arrangement as a coil or mesh. (Stout 1974)

Bucklow's work on crackle in paintings correlates specific kinds of crackle patterns to the methods and materials used by the artist to create a painting and proposes a descriptive frame work for those patterns. (Bucklow 1997) That description includes terms to indicate the predominant direction and orientation of cracks, changes in the direction of cracks, the shape and relationship of the islands between cracks, the spacial distance between cracks, their thickness, the nature of the junctions between crack networks, and the manner in which the network is organized.

Eggert notes differences in networks of cracks in ceramic glazes and glass created intentionally versus those resulting from impact, weathering, or thermal shock and looks to Bucklow's framework as a starting point to describe these patterns while indicating features seen in glass crackle which will require additional terminology. (Eggert 2006)

While the term in French, craquelure, is used in the English as a synonym, crackle is the preferred term in the English language according to the Getty's Art and Architecture thesaurus. (AAT 2004)

References[edit | edit source]

Bucklow, Spike. 1997. “The Description of Craquelure Patterns.” Studies in Conservation 42 (3): 129–140. doi:10.2307/1506709. (accessed 28 September, 2012).

Bucklow, Spike. 1999. “The Description and Classification of Craquelure.” Studies in Conservation 44 (4): 233. doi:10.2307/1506653.

Cohen, David, and Catherine Hess. 1993. Looking at European Ceramics: A Guide to Technical Terms. Getty Publications. ISBN 9780892362165

Crackle. 2004. Art and Architecture Thesaurus Online. Getty Research Institute. (accessed 17 October, 2012).

Crackle. 2004. CAMEO (Conservation and Art Materials Encyclopedia Online). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (accessed 17 October, 2012).

Doherty, Tiarna, and Anne T. Woollett. 2009. Looking at Paintings: A Guide to Technical Terms, Revised Edition. Getty Publications. ISBN 9780892369720

Eggert, Gerhard. 2006. “To Whom the Cracks Tell.” Studies in Conservation 51 (1): 69–75.

Hodges. 1988. “The Formation of Crazing in Some Early Chinese Glazed Wares.” In The Conservation of Far Eastern Art: Preprints of the Contributions to the Kyoto Congress, 19-23 1988, ed. J.S. Mills, P. Smith, and K. Yamasaki, 155–7. London: International Institute for Conservation.

Karpowicz, Adam. 1990. “A Study on Development of Cracks on Paintings.” Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 29 (2): 169–180. doi:10.2307/3179581. (accessed 28 September 2012).

Painting Conservation Glossary of Terms. Taking Care. Museum Conservation Institute, Smithsonian Institution. (accessed 17 October, 2012)

Staff of the Fine Arts Section. 1994. Condition Reporting-Paintings, Part III: Glossary of Terms. CCI Notes 10/11. Canadian Conservation Institute. (accessed 19 October, 2012).

Stout, George L. 1974. “Description of Film Cracks.” Bulletin of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works 14 (2) (April 1): 9–14. doi:10.2307/3179315.

Vergès-Belmin, V., ed. 2008. Illustrated glossary on stone deterioration patterns. English-French ed., Monuments & Sites no. 15. Paris: ICOMOS and (ISCS) International Scientific Committee for Stone.

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