Peter Howson

Plum Grove

1994

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 2137 x 1523 x 27 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1995
Reference
T06961

Display caption

The break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s unleashed savage fighting, particularly in the ethnically-mixed region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1993, Howson accompanied a British contingent of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force to Bosnia as the Official War Artist. Many of his resulting paintings depict scenes of appalling degradation including rape, castration and impaling. Plum Grove combines scenes witnessed by the artist with Croatian accounts of the treatment of their men by Muslim captors. Howson’s works are not intended to be partisan, however, addressing individual cruelty and suffering.

Gallery label, November 2006

Technique and condition

The painting was executed on a single piece of commercially-primed, medium-weight linen canvas that was stretched over a softwood expandable stretcher and attached with steel tacks at the edges. The commercial priming appears to be a white acrylic emulsion gesso that extends over the entire canvas. It was applied as a reasonably thin layer and subsequently the canvas weave texture is still very apparent through it.

The painting was executed in oil paints and was applied to the stretched face of the canvas. There was presumably much preliminary drawing, but none is now visible through the paint layers. The paint was applied exclusively by brush in a fairly vigorous manner and in a variety of thickness' and consistencies. Some areas were heavily thinned to give a matt, dry looking finish, whereas much use was also made of paint that appears to have been used straight from the tube. These areas are typically of much higher gloss and often exhibit considerable impasto. The paint was often layered over previously applied (and dried) colours, although there was also a considerable amount of blending of colours, i.e. using a wet-in-wet technique. In a few areas the brush handle was used to cut back into applied and still wet areas of colour. The colours are predominantly bright and opaque. The painting was not varnished. The simple L-section wooden frame was constructed and attached by a commercial framer and may have been the artist's choice.

The painting is in an excellent condition, with no damage visible to any area of paint. Providing the appropriate level of care is maintained the painting should remain in this near pristine state.

Tom Learner
August 2000