Technique and condition

The painting was executed on a single piece of medium-weight linen fabric that is attached to an expandable stretcher with copper tacks at the edges and wire staples at the rear. Neither the stretcher nor the tacks / staples are original to the work. The canvas would have been purchased pre-primed and this priming appears to consist of an initial layer of animal glue size followed by a pigmented layer of lead white in linseed oil. Prior to any paint application, an appreciable amount of preparatory drawing and marking up was carried out on the primed canvas with a combination of charcoal and pencil. Although much of this is now covered by paint, some of it is still visible in certain areas. The marking up takes the form of small lines along some of the edges with the relevant fractions written by the marks. For example along the right edge pencil marks have been made at a quarter, a third and half way up the side. In some places there is even drawing over the paints layers.

The paint is oil colour and was applied mainly by brush. The initial white layer over the background would have been applied with a fairly wide brush in very broad horizontal strokes and in a sufficient thickness to cover most of canvas weave texture. However, the leaves and branches in the trees and bushes have been applied with a much smaller brush and the highlights in the leaves that exhibit a reasonable impasto have been applied with a small palette knife. All these details appear to be single applications of paint. Although the technique is fairly loose, most of it appears wet on dry with very little mixing of colours in areas where paint layers overlap. The white background and tree branches would probably have been thinned slightly with a solvent such as turpentine before application. However, many of the spots of paint used for the leaves have the consistency of paint used straight from the tube. The painting is not varnished

The painting is currently in a reasonable condition despite some fairly extensive cracking and cupping visible in the white paint. Many of these appear to be impact cracks from the rear and there are straight cracks corresponding to where the canvas has flapped against the original stretcher bars. The part-gilded frame may be the original and has recently been modified slightly to hold low reflecting glass and a backboard that will significantly increase the level of protection given to the painting against further knocks.

Tom learner
June 1998