Technique and condition
Ben Nicholson’s 1934 project for Massine for Beethoven’s 7thSymphony Ballet is reasonably simple in design . It consists of a shaped piece of 3mm card that has been painted white and then adhered to a grey mounting board at the rear. The baseboard was then elaborated with pencil work. The relief form was carved to provide four planes, with the forward-most planes being 'excavated' to give three recessed disc shapes. The painting is still in its original grey painted grey and glazed frame.
The white and grey paints are both assumed to be oil-based and may be housepaints. Nicholson is known to have used such housepaints on other works at this time, 1935 (white relief) for example. Housepaints are often characterised by their ability to flow after application to produce a flat surface and few brushstrokes are visible in this piece. Both colours appear matt and opaque.
The painting is signed and dated on the back. Its full title and the inscription 'scale 1 inch to 8 ft' are also written in the same hand.
The painting is still in a reasonable condition despite its fragile state. The edges of the baseboard are rather worn and the frame is very weak. However, providing the painting is kept in stable environment and handled correctly it should not deteriorate further.
Peter Booth and Tom Learner