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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Words of the Day— vernissage

January 17, 2013

Words of the Day

  • vernissage
  • audio pronunciation
  • \vair-nih-SAHZH\


: a private showing or preview of an art exhibition

Before the art auction, there will be a vernissage during which people can mingle with the artists and preview their work.

"Art Basel officially opens with its vernissage Nov. 30 and runs through Dec. 4, but Miami Art Week—as it is being called—sprawls across the calendar with events from Nov. 27 on, basically Sunday to Sunday." — From an article by Beth Dunlop in The Miami Herald, September 18, 2011


"Vernissage" has its roots in the old practice of setting aside a day before an exhibition's opening for artists to varnish and put finishing touches to their paintings—a tradition that reportedly dates to at least 1809, when it was instituted by England's Royal Academy of Arts. (One famous member of the Academy, Joseph Mallord William Turner, was notorious for making major changes to his paintings on this day.) English speakers originally referred to this day of finishing touches simply as "varnishing day," but sometime around 1912 we also began using the French term "vernissage" (literally, "varnishing"). Today, however, you are more likely to encounter vino than varnish at a vernissage, which is often a gala event marking the opening of an exhibition.


Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.