Technique and condition

The oil painting was painted on a primed plywood panel over a period of about two months from preparatory drawings and an oil sketch. The artists' mother was the model for the two main characters.

The plywood panel is of unusual construction. It is formed from five laminated cross-ply veneers, the face veneer being considerably thicker than the other. This type of panel was recommended to the artist by Mr Screeton, a paint manufacturer in New Cross, South London, who also supplied him with the fast drying, titanium white paint Weight used to prime the board. The front of the board is primed with two layers of this paint, one applied with vertical and one with horizontal brushstrokes, probably over an initial animal glue sizing. The back of the panel was also sealed with a layer of white paint and diagonal cross-battens attached to it. These battens were removed some time ago and the panel has developed a complex warp across the horizontal grain of the dominant face veneer.

The primed panel was squared up and the design transferred from the preliminary sketches in graphite pencil which remains clearly visible in many areas. Alterations to the design were made during painting, for example, Weight remembered that, 'the branches of the tree were swept up more to enhance the leaping of the lion' (interview, 16 December 1991). He used artists' oil colours, probably from Rowney at this time, thinned with turpentine and sometimes a little oil for the passages he wished to keep thin and translucent. The thicker, opaque areas of colour retain sharply defined brushstrokes and in some areas he has used sgraffito effects, such as the combed marking of the lion's mane and whiskers, incised through the wet paint. Other areas, such as the tree trunk have been thinned by scraping and many were overlaid with retouching varnish before the final touches were added to the painting. No overall varnish was applied.

The general condition of the painting is good although there was some separation of paint layers and small losses from the lion's mane and around the edges as well as considerable surface dirt. The surface dirt was removed, paint secured, losses retouched and the panel supported in an accessory support tray on acquisition. The ornate, distressed gesso frame, not the choice of the artist, was also replaced by a new glazed frame of moulded and painted wood, consistent with other frames used by the artist.