Mary Fedden Mauve Still Life 1968

Artwork details

Mary Fedden 1915 – 2012
Mauve Still Life
Date 1968
Medium Oil paint on hardboard
Dimensions Support: 610 x 819 mm
Acquisition Presented by the artist 1997
Not on display

Technique and condition

The painting was executed on the smooth side of a single piece of 3 mm hardboard panel. The board was prepared with a thin coat of what is probably an oil-based primer white primer, which may also have a layer of animal glue size beneath it.

The paint was applied exclusively by brush in a fairly loose manner and mostly using a wet on dry technique, although there are some isolated areas of wet-in-wet evident. The paint is oil colour, possibly a mixture of artists' tube paints supplied by Rowney (for the earth colours) and Winsor and Newton (for the other colours), which are known to have been the artist's preferred choice of paints. An initial locating of the composition was made with a thin layer of light brown oil colour, which would have been excessively thinned with a diluent such as turpentine. This is still visible in many areas, for example along the left border of the table. Once the composition had been roughly established and this thinned paint had dried, the other colours were applied. The palette for the painting is polychrome, although clearly with a high content of mauve / purple. Most of the paint would have had a paste-like consistency and was probably used straight from the tube without any further thinning. Many areas consist of a single layer of paint, and there has been much use made of scraping back into the paint. In the brown area beneath the table, for example, the scraping back reveals the white ground layer beneath it. In other areas a number of layers have been built up to produce a heavily textured surface with quite high impasto. For example, the insides of the two fruit bowls have a white underlayer which holds all the texturing and the purple layer on top is in fact relatively thin.

The painting was varnished with the painting in its frame, probably by the artist. Fedden is known to have varnished her works with a retouching varnish (usually based on ketone resins). The frame is original to the work, although the artist has expressed that she would not mind if it were coloured or replaced. The painting is in a very good condition. The hardboard is providing adequate support and the paint layers are not exhibiting any cracks or other forms of deterioration. The varnish layer is still transparent and has not yellowed appreciably. There is one slight damage to the hardboard support on the left edge which has been crudely restored so that the brushstrokes in the paint layers around the damage do not quite match up. The appearance of this repair was recently improved slightly with some additional inpainting. In addition, the framing of the work was modified to hold a supporting panel behind the hardboard, which should prevent the hardboard from developing a disturbing bow in its plane. At the same time glazing was added to the frame so that now it offers a far higher level of protection to the painting.

Tom Learner
November 1997

About this artwork