Sylvia Melland Still Life with an Open Window 1931

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Artwork details

Artist
Sylvia Melland 1906–1993
Title
Still Life with an Open Window
Date 1931
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 763 x 685 mm
frame: 900 x 822 x 53 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Presented by David Melland 1997
Reference
T07320

Technique and condition

The painting was executed on a single piece of commercially-primed, medium weight linen canvas, which is attached to a four membered expandable stretcher with ferrous tacks around the edges and at the reverse. The stretcher is thought to be original to the work despite the presence of a few additional tacking holes. The priming covers the entire canvas and consists of a white oil-based primer probably over a thin layer of unpigmented animal glue. The priming is reasonably thin and the canvas weave texture is still very evident through it.

The paint covers most of the stretched face of canvas, although in some places it falls a little short of the edges and in others it extends slightly around them. In certain places the ground is visible between painted areas, for example just below the pears in the lower right corner. The paint is oil, consists primarily of opaque colours and has been applied mainly in single layers, although where the forms overlap there are two, or sometimes even more layers. The paint would have been generally vehicular in consistency and for the thinner areas, which includes most of the background, would have been diluted, probably with turpentine. However, the paint used for the food and glassware has not been thinned. In these areas the individual brushstrokes are visible and use has been made of a slight impasto. The painting has an overall matt appearance, although there is some variation in the level of gloss, from very matt paint (especially where the paint has been thinned) to paint of a low gloss (in the thicker regions). The very thinned areas of paint appear intentional although the painting does also appear to have suffered from some minor abrasion.

The plain oak frame is thought to be original and has been modified slightly so that it can hold low reflecting glass and a backboard to improve significantly the protection given to the painting. The painting is in overall good condition, despite the presence of the minor abrasion in some of the thinner passages of paint and a small scratch running through the loaf of bread. The fabric is still strong and taut and offers good support to the paint layers. The painting was recently cleaned to remove a layer of surface dirt from the painting which has restored some of the colour to the work, and some of the more noticeable areas of wear, including the scratch in the loaf, were retouched.

Tom Learner
November 1997

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