Stephen McKenna

Three Baskets


Not on display

Stephen McKenna 1939 – 2017
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 803 × 1002 mm
Presented by the artist 1995

Display caption

McKenna lives and works in Italy and likes to set up still lifes in his studio. In 1995 he took a teaching post at the Hochschüle für Bildende Künste at Braunschweig in Germany, and a studio was provided with the job. Knowing that this new studio would be rather bare, the artist took these baskets with him from Italy in order to have a familiar subject to begin work on. McKenna bought these three baskets in Calabria, in Southern Italy, with a view to using them in his pictures. The baskets are typically used to sieve or dry food, pasta for example.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Technique and condition

The painting was executed in oil paints on a single piece of medium weight linen canvas, attached to a softwood expandable stretcher with wire staples. The stretcher consists of seven members, with square-butted mortise and tenon joints in the corners. The mortises in the centre of the outer members are typically 40mm too wide for the cross members, which has permitted a significant degree of rotation of these cross members about the centre.

Prior to stretching, the linen canvas was probably first coated with a layer of rabbit skin glue sizing before the application of the pigmented oil ground layer, which is white and of reasonable thickness. Around the tacking margins, however, the white ground has been covered in a layer of dark grey paint.

The paint was then applied by brush in a fairly precise manner, with slight impasto used in the depiction of the baskets, where the brushstrokes are particularly visible. The paint is generally opaque with a reasonable gloss. Considerable warmth is given to the background grey/blue colours by a red imprimatura layer which is visible beneath it, especially in the top area where the upper colour has been applied rather thinly. The painting is initialled in the lower right corner. There is no varnish layer. The frame is painted a rather cool grey and is probably original.

The painting is in overall excellent condition, with no sign of any current or imminent deterioration and no record of any previous treatment. As a preventative measure, to protect the painting from the rather sharp inner edges of the stretcher bars, strips of a rigid polyester film were inserted and secured between the outer stretcher bars and the fabric, and a polyester fabric placed behind the cross-members.

Tom Learner
July 1997

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