Derek Boshier

Shy Cowboy


Not on display

Derek Boshier born 1937
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1324 × 1022 × 33 mm
Presented anonymously 1998

Technique and condition

The painting is in oil paint on linen canvas, and is unvarnished. The canvas is of fine weave and medium weight with a thread count of fourteen warp threads and fourteen weft threads per square centimetre. The canvas is stapled to a softwood strainer. The linen was commercially prepared using an acrylic priming containing chalk and titanium white onto which the artist applied a second white oil priming (containing calcium carbonate) over the picture plane.

No underdrawing is visible, but the artist appears to have delineated the central figure using a light brown paint, before painting the figure and the background last. This is in accordance with his known practice. The artist has used a medium-rich glossy paint, which has been generously applied using a fairly thick brush, creating a surface that is textured and retains prominent brush strokes. The figure has been painted using a smaller brush and the paint is not as thickly applied as the background paint. The artist has often mixed paint on the canvas wet-in-wet. There is a handwritten inscription on the reverse of the linen support painted in black paint which reads ‘Derek Boshier ‘’Shy Cowboy, Halloween’’, 1980 52x40 inches.

Pigments used include: bone black, cadmium red (cadmium sulfoselenide and cadmium mercury sulphide), cadmium orange, carbon black, French ultramarine, molybdate red and titanium white. The paints also contain chalk and barium sulphate, which are common extender pigments used in manufactured tube paints. Castor wax (a common tube paint additive) has been found in the dark green paint; this is often found as an additive in modern tube paints, as a rheology modifier (to adjust the flow behaviour of paint, e.g. its viscosity).

The painting is in a good condition, but exhibits water sensitivity in some of the red, orange, green and brown passages. Many unvarnished oil paintings of the twentieth century are sensitive to water, which is an area of ongoing research (see the Cleaning Modern Oil Paints project). In 2003 the painting was carefully cleaned to remove surface dirt on the front and reverse of the painting. The painting is unframed and unglazed.

Further reading
Paul Gorman, Derek Boshier: Rethink / Re-entry, London, 2015.
Mel Gooding, Derek Boshier: Recent Works, London 1996.

Judith Lee
February 2017

Research on this work was carried out as part of an AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at Tate, 2013–2016.

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