Technique and condition
The painting was executed on a single piece of fairly coarse and slightly open-weave linen canvas, attached to a four-membered softwood expandable stretcher with wire staples at the rear. Once the canvas was stretched, a white acrylic gesso primer was applied to the front face and all four edges. Although at least two layers of primer would have been applied, much of the canvas weave texture has remained apparent through it. The primer penetrates through to the back of the canvas in many areas, which indicates that it was well worked into the coarse canvas during its application.
The various surface textures of the painting were established before the coloured paint was applied. These were achieved with a white modelling paste (probably also an acrylic emulsion) that was applied directly over the priming in a number of ways. In the main diamond shape, for example, the three adjacent thick cylindrical forms appear to have been squeezed straight from a tube, whereas the textured area inside it was probably achieved with a palette knife. The paints used were also acrylic emulsions and were probably those made by Liquitex, a brand that Caulfield is known to have liked. The paint would have been predominantly vehicular in consistency and would have been brushed out well in areas of flat colour with very little thinning necessary. Most of the colours used are opaque, apart from the deep red, which is actually rather transparent and subsequently would have required many more layers to hide the white modelling paste beneath it. There is no varnish layer over the paint. The hardwood frame is though to be original to the work and consists of a simple square moulding stained to a dark umber colour and polished.
The painting is in an excellent condition. Although the canvas is slightly distorted at the rear due to the uneven contraction of the paint layers, it is still taut and providing good support. The paint layers themselves are not exhibiting any signs of degradation. A sheet of polystyrene was recently inserted inside the stretcher bars to provide additional support to the paint films and a backboard was attached to offer improved protection.
Tom Learner May 1998