Technique and condition

The painting is on a single piece of coarse, plain weave linen canvas. This is stretched over and stapled to the reverse of a 6 member expandable softwood with the two cross members half lapped where they cross each other. Triangular section beading at the outer edges of the stretcher, keeps the canvas away from the stretcher bars. Stamps on the reverse indicate that the stretcher was made in the USA by TRI-MAR Enterprises Inc. USA.

There is a size layer visible on the unpainted turnover edges of the canvas at the sides but not extending onto the canvas folded over and attached to the reverse of the stretcher. It has distinctive glittery appearance in strong light and it fluoresces in ultra violet light indicating that it may be an animal glue. It is a fairly substantial layer, evenly filling the interstices of the weave and adding a substantial amount of stiffness to the linen where it is present. The size was apparently applied after the canvas had been stapled onto this stretcher and there is no evidence of restretching

A white priming layer is just visible at the edges of the painted area. Neither pigment or media have been analysed, and as almost all of it is covered by paint layers it is not possible to describe the consistency. It appears to cover the whole of the front of the canvas and has been applied carefully so as not to extend over the tacking edges. The layer is sufficiently thin to allow the texture of the coarse weave linen to remain prominent. None of the priming has penetrated through to the back of the canvas.

The paint appears to be oil, but no analysis has been carried out to confirm this or to identify the pigments used. The paint is well bound and generally paste in consistency. It has been brushed in thin layers over the whole of the face of the canvas. The tacking edges have been left intentionally unpainted, particularly at the more visible left and right edges, but there are some drips and smears of paint extending around on to the tacking edges particularly at the top edge.

Some traces of a black charcoal or similar drawing material are visible at the edges of the form. The outlines seem to have been established at an early stage, and little changed during the painting process. The paint is quite thinly applied with no impasto, but broad brush marks of slightly different direction, thickness and gloss give a subtle variety to the surface in the pale green background. Darker underlayers show through the pale green background and the flesh colour of the swimmer's head, giving a slightly uneven, scumbled appearance to the otherwise flat colour in these areas. The dark paint of the swimmer has a more even finish and higher gloss. A suggestion of form has been produced by softly painted mid grey highlights over the dark grey/black paint of the figure's body used in conjunction with abrasion of the dark grey/black to reveal the pale priming at the tops of the canvas weave.

The painting is not varnished and has no frame

The condition of the work is very good. The canvas is substantial and tautly stretched on a robust stretcher and the paint is thinly applied with no damages apart from very minor abrasion of paint at the corners and edges.

Sam Hodge
January 1999