Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A private showing held before the opening of an art exhibition.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A private viewing of an art exhibition before it opens to the public.

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[French, varnishing, day before the official opening of an exhibition on which artists would varnish their paintings, vernissage, from vernis, varnish, from Old French; see varnish.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French vernissage, derived from the earlier habit of the artists to varnish their paintings the day before the opening of an exhibition.

Examples

Comments

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  • A private showing or preview of an art collection.

    May 11, 2008

  • 'Vernis' is French for 'varnish'. Oil paintings were (and still are, I think) protected by a coat of varnish. Folkloric-ly, this would take place in the last-minute rush, just before an opening, leading to the 'preview' of a collection being the 'varnishing'. Presumably with the artists friends pitching in.

    July 16, 2008

  • (noun) - (1) A day before the exhibition of paintings on which exhibitors may retouch and varnish their pictures already hung. A private view of paintings before public exhibition. From the French word vernis, varnish.

    --Sir James Murray's New English Dictionary, 1928

    (2) Varnishing-day, a day before the opening of a picture exhibition, on which exhibitors have the privilege of retouching their pictures on the walls.

    --William Whitney's Century Dictionary, 1889

    January 16, 2018