Technique and condition

The work consists of three separate paintings which are secured together with two 90 mm metal bolts along each of their common edges. The central square with the red and deep green stripes makes up one canvas, and the yellow and black vertical bands make up the other two. Each of these paintings is on a C shaped canvas and they are joined at the central vertical line. The support of each painting consists of a single piece of heavy-weight linen fabric, attached to a rigid strainer with wire staples at their rear edges. All three strainers are made by 'Nadle'. The outer two are very complicated structures and consist of eight basic members with four additional reinforcement pieces. The six corner joints are turn-buckle joints and all cross-over joints are half lapped and secured by glue (probably a PVA) and screws. In addition to the stretcher bars there are further strips of wood used as reinforcements to the structure and which are glued to the front of the stretcher bars. The inner square strainer has a much simpler construction with four outer members, two cross members and four additional reinforcements across the corners.

The stretched pieces of canvas were first prepared with a layer of animal glue, which extends around most of the tacking edges, followed by the application of an even layer of a grey oil ground, which falls slightly short of the animal glue size. Although none of the layers have been analysed, an inscription of the back of the central canvas reads 'glue size, lead ground, oil'. The ground therefore probably consists of lead white and a black pigment dispersed in oil. Interestingly the ground of the central painting is a much lighter grey to that of the outer paintings.

Once the ground had dried the paint layers were applied. This was done using fairly wide brushes, in several superimposed layers so that the overall thickness of the paint is high and the canvas texture is completely obscured. The paint is generally of high gloss and opaque, so the colours tend not to be affected by those beneath them, although the deep green does appear slightly transparent. At the borders of each stripe it is possible to make out most of the underlayers, and even the grey ground in certain places. The paint was applied with a combination of wet-on-dry and wet-in-wet techniques and has left strongly directional brush-marking in the paint. This is usually parallel to the direction of the stripes, apart from the vertical red and green stripes, where there is also evidence of some horizontal brush marking presumably from an under layer.

None of the paintings have been varnished and the work is not framed. The back of the central canvas is signed Scully 87 with a lean black material. The piece is in an excellent condition with no signs of any deterioration in the paint films and the rigid strainers are still providing sound support.

Tom Learner
November 1997