Technique and condition

The painting was executed on the textured side of a single sheet of 3 mm thick hardboard, which is pinned and glued (with a PVA wood glue) to a softwood batten frame behind it. The batten frame consists of four outer members, which are butt joined at their corners, one horizontal cross-member and three vertical cross-members. At each batten intersection, an additional piece of hardboard has been glued behind the joint presumably as a further reinforcement. These hardboard pieces are squares (with sides of 180 mm) on the three cross over points between vertical and horizontal members, whereas at all the outer joints the squares have been cut in half to form triangular pieces. Once the support had been constructed, a very dilute and only slightly pigmented size layer was applied over the front of the hardboard panel and also on its back in the areas between the wooden batten frame. The nature of this coating is not known, but it has the appearance of an animal glue with a tiny amount of chalk added. Although essentially white in colour, it is very transparent due to the very low solid content, and the coating subsequently takes on much of the hardboard colour beneath it.

The paint was then applied to the primed panel. The whole of the panel front appears to have been first covered with a layer of white oil paint before the other colours were applied over this. This has a reasonable thickness, but the surface texture of the hardboard would still have been evident through it; it is still visible in areas where this layer shows between the thicker and subsequent paint layers. The paint used for the upper layers is vehicular and paste-like in consistency, and was probably used straight from the tube, although a few areas may have had a little additional oil medium added to them. The paint was applied predominantly by brush, although the surface topography of a few areas is completely flat which is indicative of the occasional use of a palette knife. The paint has been built up in many layers, mostly with opaque colours, all of which have a reasonably high gloss. However, since the technique used was very much a wet-in-wet style these layers are often blended and subsequently not completely distinct from each other. Nevertheless, the overall paint thickness is characteristically very thick, with the highest points of impasto remaining some 7 mm above the support. For such a thickly painted work the paint is showing remarkably few drying defects, with just the occasional area of slight wrinkling in some of the thicker regions. The thin strings of paint which lie over much of the painting (although some lie beneath the final brushstrokes) are of two sorts. One sort originates from areas of high impasto, where the paint appears to have been pulled up and then over by the brush so that the string lies across the painting but is still connected to the impasto. The other kind appears completely independent of impasto and would have been formed by using a brush loaded with paint which had started to run and rapidly moving it over the surface of the painting.

The frame is original to the work and consists of a painted L-section construction. The frame itself is made from a softwood and it is screwed to an MDF rear section, which in turn is screwed to the wooden battens on the rear of the painting. The front face of the frame is a grey colour, whereas all the inner sections and the outside are a much lighter and bluer grey, which has been applied as a thin scumble. The painting is in an excellent condition. The hardboard support is providing sound support for the paint layers, which show no sign of cracking or other form of deterioration. Providing it is kept in the appropriate environmental conditions, there is no reason why the work should not remain in this pristine state for a considerable period of time.

Tom Learner
October 1997