Linen is a material made from the fibers of the flax plant. The term linen itself refers to the yarn or fabric produced from flax fibers. This oldest fabric material of world is considered best medium for painting especially the oil version of it. Linen canvas is one of the most preferred supports for oil painting. Linen canvas is considered as more expensive than cotton canvas. Since a linen canvas is costlier than a cotton canvas it's generally used by only professional painters in the United States, where cotton is the most popular. In European countries, linen was the only fabric support available in different art shops. A linen canvas is preferred for its strength, durability and good quality.
Early canvas was used to be made of linen. On those days Linen canvas was only suitable for oil painting. Since linen was composed of only high quality materials it was only used by the professional artists. Before actually painting on linen canvas it was first coated with an outer coating of gesso. Modern canvasses are also primed before actually painting on those however in modern times synthetic latex is considered more popular.
Before painting, whether it is a linen canvas or a cotton canvas, it is first stretched across a wooden frame called as stretcher. Then the canvas is coated with gesso before using. The coating is applied to prevent the oil paint from coming into direct contact with the canvas fibers, which can cause a major decay to the canvas.
In modern times one can buy many small prepared canvases which are glued to a cardboard backing. These canvasses are only available in fixed sizes and are not acid free. Their lifespan is also very limited. Such canvasses are often used for some quick studies. Like the cotton canvas linen canvasses are also available in many different sizes. There are many small to big business houses that produce linen canvas of different size, price and texture.