William Strang

The Temptation


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Not on display

William Strang 1859–1921
Oil paint on canvas
Frame: 1373 × 1513 mm
support: 1220 × 1372 × 24 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1999

Display caption

This is the first in a series of ten paintings on the biblical story of Adam and Eve. They were commissioned by the brewer Laurence Hodson as a frieze for his library at Compton Hall, near Wolverhampton. The strong contours and pale colours give the scene a modern and a dream-like quality. The Eve cycle was admired by the artist Walter Sickert and by the younger generation of London art students.

Gallery label, February 2016

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Technique and condition

The painting is in oil paint on a plain-woven, linen canvas, which has a colourman's stamp on the back: 'JOHN BRYCE SMITH/ 117 HAMPSTEAD RD/ LONDON NW'. It is unlined. The original stretcher is made of pine and has a vertical and horizontal cross bar. The mortise-and-tenon, butt joints at its corners are adjustable.

The priming looks like one applied by the colourman: it is off-white, smooth and fairly thin. It has developed a criss-cross network of sharp cracks which relate mainly to the stretching; there are also noticeable cracks related to the stretcher bars and others that may have developed from knocks at the back, for example the long lines through Eve's hip.

The paint is opaque and was applied mainly in broad, confident strokes. There is slight impasto in parts of the sky and foreground but for the most part the paint is smooth. Apart from abrasion caused by the rebate of the frame, the paint is in good condition. Darkened areas of paint and varnish around the sight edge suggest that the painting was finished while in its original frame. The original varnish has since been removed; the current protective layer is a synthetic resin varnish.

The gilded frame is not original.

Rica Jones
June 1999

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