Technique and condition

Painted in tempera glazed with resinous, oil colours on a gessoed panel, the painting exemplifies the painting technique Allen developed over many years of study and experimentation. Allen described his struggle to discover an appropriate technique in an article by Sydney R. Jones 'George Warner-Allen' published in Studio no. 143, 1952. 'I read every treatise I could find, both ancient and modern, on the technique of painting, and arrived at the conclusion that the solution of my problem probably lay in some combination of the tempera and oil techniques such as the great Venetians appear to have used. Such a combination allows of great technical freedom in handling with as much elaboration as desired. The use of a short sharp impasto is a beautiful foil to the superimposed glazes in a highly resinous, fluid medium.'

The panel is constructed from a sheet of plywood reinforced at the back with a substantial timber framework. Over the front was stretched a piece of fine linen, probably glued to the face of the plywood and tacked to the sides and back of the timber framework. Two pieces of coarser linen were also adhered to the exposed plywood at the back. All surfaces were given a coat of water soluble gesso and the front face was built up in several layers of gesso, reducing the texture of the canvas.

The composition was worked out in a series of preparatory sketches before being drawn onto the panel. An underpainting in tempera covers the majority of the panel. The stiff paint used to model the forms retains all the detail of his brushwork in sharp relief. Over this light underpainting Allen has applied local colour and developed the forms in highly, resinous oil glazes. Some fine translucent glazes are worked into the textural detail, as in some areas of tree foliage. Further modification is achieved with neutral coloured glazes such as those applied to the sky, which are indistinguishable from the overall varnish layer. Allen prepared both his tempera and oil paints himself and the uneven dispersion of the pigments, leaving clusters of pigment, is clearly visible in some of the glazes.

The condition of the painting on acquisition was structurally sound although it had been visibly exposed to adverse conditions. The exposed gesso on the back and edges had been extensively attacked by rampant mould growth and the front was covered with dirt. Dirt and debris from the mould growth were removed and the painting refitted into its existing frame.

The stained, moulded wood frame with gilded details was fitted with glass to protect the delicate surface of the painting.

Roy Perry
1996