Technique and condition

The support for Jan 27, 1933 is a single piece of linen canvas stretched over a wooden panel. The one centimetre thick wooden panel is supported by a fixed, commercial strainer. The reverse of the panel is coated with a layer of paint wash and has a newspaper article and numerous labels attached to it with white glue. The canvas is attached to the panel with iron tacks on the outer edge of the strainer bars. The fabric is weak and embrittled. There is a hole on the front, bottom edge in the centre of the painting that appears to have original paint covering its edges. The surface has undulating deformation related to the varying thicknesses and materials on the surface.

The artist applied a white ground layer to the front face of the canvas. It has inclusions and bumps which contribute to the surface texture. The top reverse edge of the canvas is just visible and has a thin layer of grey paint, which may be a re-used canvas.

The materials used to create the image on the front face include black, browns, sienna, yellow ochre, white and grey oil paints, graphite, paper collage, white paper doily and black and red printing inks on printed newspaper.

Black, brown, grey and sienna paint was applied to the surface using a brush. The paint is flat and matte in appearance and appears to have been applied in thin layers. A fine and a thicker rounded, pointed tool were used to incise and abrade the surface. This exposed the white gesso and canvas below the paint. The pressure applied was hard enough to penetrate and abrade the canvas in some areas.

Paper collage was added and painted over. A white paper doily was applied and “Made in England” can be seen impressed on it in raking light. Its exposed lacework is discontinuously covered in white paint. Pieces of printed newspaper were also attached. The adhesive(s) used are undetermined but they have soaked the paper in areas making it hard and brittle. The top left collage element was painted over with a matte off-white paint to imitate the paper and the lettering reworked. Simple fish designs were drawn in graphite on plain paper, cut out and glued to the surface. A handle was drawn in graphite on another piece of newsprint to create a mug.

The upper paint layers are also generally flat and matte in appearance. On the left side the artist painted a grey strip onto which he daubed black and sienna paint. The daubs of paint are slightly thicker and hold the brush texture. Elsewhere, the texture of the canvas and the inclusions in the ground layer are visible.

The paint is in generally good condition. It is cohesive and well bound to the surface. There are a few areas with small flaky losses, particularly in the layered sections. There is some abrasion and wear with a few scratches and rubs.

The collage elements are more fragile and there are many areas where the newspaper is raised and appears insecure or has been torn, due to contracting adhesive in some cases. In the areas with a blistered appearance the paper is stiff and secure. There is some fragile delamination in areas of the doily.

The newspaper has discoloured and darkened due to adhesive stain and oxidation. The red inks on the newspaper are still visible but faded.

This painting is generally stable, however it will continue to be fragile due to the nature of its component materials and how they were put together. It will be kept in a glazed frame, in low light conditions for its continuing protection.

Patricia Smithen
July 2001