Sean Scully

Fort #2


Not on display

Sean Scully born 1945
Oil paint on 2 canvases
Displayed: 2137 × 2142 mm
Presented by Janet Wolfson de Botton 1996

Display caption

This work consists of two panels connected along their vertical edge, and with stripes painted across both of them. The title refers to the classical design of Roman forts, which had four sections. During the 1970s, many of Scully’s paintings had been based on a grid format. Towards the end of that decade, he began to keep the horizontal and vertical lines separate. As he explained, ‘the painting is really a separated grid, a grid that has been pulled apart’.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Technique and condition

The work consists of two individual paintings which are connected along their common vertical edge with four bolts, located at 305, 790, 1335 and 1900 mm from the bottom. Each painting consists of a single piece of medium-weight cotton duck canvas which is attached to a rigid softwood strainer by wire staples at the rear. The strainers are made up from four butt-joined outer members, two half-lapped cross members and four triangular corner braces. Once the canvasses had been stretched onto these strainers, a fairly thin and even layer of unpigmented size (probably an animal glue) was applied to the face and all four tacking edges of each canvas, as a preparatory layer for the oil paint.

The paint was applied exclusively by brush in distinct layers, allowing for the previous layer to dry thoroughly before the next one was applied. The palette used on this work is rather limited, consisting of an initial light blue imprimatura layer followed by an overall black coating on both paintings. Then the horizontal stripes were painted, with a deep blue colour on the left painting and a deep plum colour on the right one. The horizontal lines were achieved by applying the paint between strips of masking tape. Unlike the other paints, these paints show very visible vertical brush strokes (despite the horizontal orientation of the lines). All the paints would have had a vehicular and fairly paste-like consistency and were probably used straight from the tube, although the deep blue and plum paints would have had a much thicker consistency than the black and light blue paints. All the colours are opaque and exhibit a reasonably high gloss. The very clean and crisp edges to the paint layers on both outer vertical edges were also achieved using masking tape, which was removed after all the paint layers had been applied. Masking tape was actually applied around all the tacking margins prior to painting, but has not been removed from the other six edges.

The painting has no varnish layer and is not framed. Both paintings are in excellent condition. The strainers are providing a good and rigid support and the paint layers are unchanged. Providing the correct precautions are taken when transporting and handling the works, they should remain in this pristine state for a considerable time.

Tom Learner
November 1997


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