Technique and condition

The support to the painting comprises a single piece of composite 'battenboard' that is fixed into the frame with four metal plates. These lie across each of the painting's corners and are screwed into the rear of the frame. The board consists of two sheets of 6mm thick 3-ply plywood that are pinned and glued to four outer battens. In addition the board contains several supporting battens that run diagonally inside the structure, which are visible when the painting is examined with X-rays. This support was initially primed with a very dry and thin white layer that has the appearance of chalk bound in animal glue.

The paint is predominantly vehicular and paste-like in consistency and is typical of oil paint used straight from the tube. It extends over all parts of the board and frame that are visible from the front, as well as the left and right edges of the frame (which has been toned with a black matt paint). The paint was applied in a rather loose manner, exclusively by brush (the brushstrokes remain very apparent), and built up in several layers. All areas appear to have at least two layers, although it is not unusual to find up to four or five, especially in areas near the overlap of forms or where the composition has been altered, for example in the top right corner. Most of the layers were applied after the underlying one had dried, but occasionally a wet-in-wet technique was used, for example in the blue and white curves that outline the figure. The diagonal green stripes were painted last and were painted over the completed forms beneath (which are still visible when the work is viewed in raking light). The paint is generally opaque and matt, although a transparent red is used along the top member of the frame and some of the thin green layers seem transparent too. The painting is not varnished.

The work is still in excellent condition. Although a few minor cracks have developed in the paint above knots in the wooden frame (especially along the top edge) the paint is still securely attached in these areas. Of slightly more concern are the four corners of the frame, whose mitres at the front have opened slightly at their inner edges. However, these corner joints are structurally secure and should remain so providing a careful handling policy is adopted and the painting is kept in stable environmental conditions.

Tom Learner
April 1998