Leslie Hurry

Self-Portrait

1944

Artist
Leslie Hurry 1909–1978
Medium
Oil paint, ink and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 910 x 706 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with assistance from the Hurry Armour Trust 1991
Reference
T05849

Not on display

Display caption

In this self-portrait Hurry presents himself as a romantic Hamlet-like figure in a fictitious world. The two entwined naked figures behind him contrast with the more mundane objects in the foreground, including a book and bowl of fruit.

In 1942 Hurry had received great critical acclaim for his designs for the sets and costumes for Robert Helpmann’s ballet Hamlet, performed at Sadler’s Wells. This was the start of a distinguished association with the theatre, clearly reflected in this painting.

Gallery label, September 2004

Technique and condition

This intensely worked painting is executed predominantly in oil colours with pen and ink, graphite pencil and other media on a medium weight, cartridge drawing paper. The paper appears to have been sized to prevent penetration of the paint into it. The many layered surface shows evidence of several reworkings where the artist has scraped and scratched existing layers before applying new colour in washes and scumbles, hatching and drawing into it. Holes in the corners suggest that it was pinned to a board for painting.

After it had suffered several creases and small tears, it was glued down onto a canvas with a water soluble animal glue. The canvas was an oil white lead double primed cotton canvas stretched onto a stretcher. The top edge of the canvas was crudely painted dark blue where the paper did not reach to the edge.

The condition of the painting on acquisition was unstable. The buckling paper was detaching from the canvas in many areas as the glue, used to attach it, pulled the top layer of priming away from the canvas. To stabilise the painting it was removed from the canvas, the back of the paper cleaned of glue and detached priming and then gently flattened. To support and protect the painting, extension edges of paper were added to the back and the painting stretched over a stable, composite panel. The surface of the painting was cleaned and minor damages restored.

The remounted painting was refitted into its existing frame, which was probably chosen by the artist. The frame had been repaired and reglazed, retaining the highly distressed finish of its mouldings.

Roy Perry
1996

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