Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

June Painting, Ultramarine and Yellow


Not on display

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham 1912–2004
Acrylic paint on canvas
Support: 1375 × 2082 × 38 mm
Presented by Tate Friends St Ives 1999

Technique and condition

The painting was executed on a single piece of medium weight, plain weave, linen canvas, which was stretched over a seven-membered softwood expandable stretcher and attached with wire staples at the rear. Once stretched, the front and sides of the canvas were primed with a white acrylic gesso emulsion. The priming appears to have been very fluid on application (i.e. thinned with water), as it has resulted in a very thin coating with the canvas weave texture still very apparent through it. Its fluidity also resulted in appreciable quantities being pushed through to the back of the canvas.

The paint is oil paint and only four colours were used: blue (synthetic ultramarine), yellow (azo yellow) red and black. It was applied over the stretched face of the canvas, exclusively by brush (possibly in a range of sizes) and in a very loose manner. There is considerable variation in gloss, thickness, transparency and texture in the various colours. The areas of higher gloss, thickness and texture are fairly characteristic of oil paint used straight from the tube, whereas the matter, thinner and flatter areas would have been achieved through thinning the paint with varying amounts of diluent. The application technique appears to have been mainly 'wet on dry' but there are some areas of 'wet in wet' (i.e. the blending of different colours). An additional surface effect is provided by the presence of numerous fragments of dried paint 'skins' in certain areas, especially the deep blue passages.

The painting is in excellent condition. Providing some basic precautionary conservation measures are taken to reduce handling (such as its display behind a barrier), the painting should remain in this near pristine state.

Tom Learner
July 2000

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