Technique and condition

The painting is on a coarse, plain weave linen canvas with large slubs. Vilaincour reports buying a stock of large rolls of Belgian linen canvas from Russell and Chapple in the 1980's which he has used since then. The canvas was then marked out with pencil lines, cut out and stretched onto a five-member softwood stretcher. Vilaincour or his assistant adapted the five-member expandable stretcher by the addition of four painted diagonal softwood corner braces screwed onto the reverse of the outer members and two painted strips of hardboard screwed horizontally across the centre, from the left and right outer members to the cross bar. In an interview with the artist he says that he did this to stop his paintings touching each other when they are stacked. He states that he then sized the canvas with rabbit skin glue.

A.white priming layer covers the stretched face of the canvas. Medium and pigments of the priming have not been tested but according to the artist it is probably Roberson's alkyd primer. It is of medium thickness, the coarse canvas texture remaining apparent in some of the more thinly painted areas and appears fairly lean where visible at the edges.

The paint has not been analysed but the artist reports using Winsor and Newton oil paints with additions of a complex mixture of other media on the palette. The added medium consists of one part sun-thickened linseed oil and one part dammar varnish mixed with one part white spirit with small additions of copal picture varnish and beeswax. He then mixed this medium with an equal part of Liquin alkyd medium before adding it to the oil paint. The purpose of these additions is to increase the speed of drying, which is important for Vilaincour because he builds up his paintings in numerous layers with the paint allowed to dry between applications. The paint covers the priming except for the very edges. It is applied in a variety of ways; including brush, palette knife and sponge or roller. Paint has been dragged across or glazed or scraped over underlying palette knifed and sponged textures. There are areas of medium rich impasto applied by brush and some areas of wet paint have been scraped into with pointed brush handle or similar instrument. In other areas the paint is brushed on in thin layers. Gold paint, which has not been analysed, but which the artists reports is bronze powder in a Liquin alkyd medium has been dabbed on with a brush in spots of slight impasto. Much of the paint appears medium rich and quite transparent due to addition of medium.

A glossy varnish, which according to the artist consists of a mixture of matt and glossy Winsor and Newton picture varnish, has been applied unevenly creating slight runs.

The artist and his wife make their own frames. This one consists of two edging battens of different depths the first pinned into the stretcher and the second onto the first. They are stained with a dark brown glossy stain. He marked the position of the tacks attaching the canvas to the stretcher with pencil on the turnover edges so that he could avoid banging the pins holding on the double edging strips into them. The artist also sized the tacking edges, which extend around the reverse of the stretcher and are attached with ferrous staples.

The condition of the painting and the frame are very good and stable with no damages apparent and no significant discolouration or dirt.

The artist has painted his initials and the date and the title of the work at the top edge of the front of the painting. His name and address and the title and the date of the painting are also written on the reverse of the canvas. There is also a small pencil drawing on the reverse of the top stretcher member.

Sam Hodge
May 1998