- Pigment and acrylic paint on canvas
- Support: 880 x 710 mm
- Presented by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of Peter Norton 2012
Technique and condition
The painting was executed on a single piece of medium-weight cotton duck canvas, which is stretched over a softwood expandable stretcher and attached with wire staples at the rear. The artist probably carried out preliminary drawing in charcoal (although none is visible now) and the stretched canvas was then prepared with an unpigmented acrylic emulsion size, which was sprayed on both front and back faces and has resulted in a very stiff fabric. However, the canvas was then taken off the stretcher for the painting stage and only re-stretched after the painting had been completed.
The paint was applied over the front face and all visible sides (the painting is not framed so the tacking edges are visible), although there are a few areas towards the lower edge where the sized canvas is visible. The paint appears to have been mixed by the artist, using dry pigment powders that were added in varying amounts to the same acrylic emulsion medium used to prepare the canvas, and then applied with a brush. A slightly raised edge to the boundaries of the background colour suggests that a masking technique may have been used during the application of this colour (which would have been last in the sequence). Most paint layers were applied as single layers, with only a small amount of layering present at the edges of each colour (i.e. where two colours have overlapped, although there is some indication of a wet-in-wet technique used in the black and white striped shirt. Both opaque and transparent pigments were used. For example, the background maroon appears quite transparent, whereas the face is opaque through the use of copious amounts of titanium dioxide, one of the most opaque pigments available. The paint is of variable thickness and texture, achieved through differential amounts of pigment, which are often clumped together in large agglomerates. In areas where pigment has collected, the surface tends to be more matt, typically at the edge of each brushstroke.
The painting is in excellent condition. Although the canvas is fairly floppy, it is very stiff due to the acrylic sizing layers, and subsequently still provides good support for the paint layers. This slackness is also a feature that the artist likes and so no attempts will be made to tighten it up.