Definition of gesso in US English:



  • A hard compound of plaster of Paris or whiting in glue, used in sculpture or as a base for gilding or painting on wood.

    • ‘To make them, Gissler first builds up layer upon smooth layer of gesso on a thick wood panel, achieving a dense, glassy surface.’
    • ‘Executed in egg tempera and gesso on panel rather than the acrylics and oils for which the artist is best known, these new paintings exhibit a sensual luminosity not previously seen in his work.’
    • ‘She pays great attention to the surface texture of her paintings, working primarily with gesso, acrylic and tempera.’
    • ‘Emulating the old masters, he used tempera and oil over gesso on wood, then covered the surface with transparent glaze.’
    • ‘By the fifteenth century, many Western artists were using it in frescoes or in gesso on wood panel paintings.’


Late 16th century: Italian, from Latin gypsum (see gypsum).