Thomas Wade

Turf Cutters


Not on display

Thomas Wade 1828–1891
Oil paint on canvas
Unconfirmed: 900 × 700 mm
frame: 1077 × 873 × 90 mm
Purchased 1996

Display caption

Thomas Wade’s picture demonstrates an intimate knowledge of rural life in his native Lancashire. It shows workers engaged in cutting peat for fuel. This was a legal right and a common activity in the countryside in the 19th century, for personal use in winter or for small gain. Influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, Wade meticulously painted in front of his subject. There is dignity and nobility in the group he represents, but Wade also depicts the hardship of these workers’ lives.

Gallery label, October 2013

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Technique and condition

The painting is on a plain woven, linen canvas of medium weight. When acquired it was mounted on a rough stretcher, of which the horizontal bars did not match the uprights. Whether the artist chose this stretcher is not known; it is certain, however, that the painting was not done on it in its present configuration because the blue paint of the sky extends for about one centimetre onto the top tacking edge. The stretcher was keyed out to maximum dimensions, was weak and had caused noticeable bar marks in the paint and ground.

The ground is a thin, white, smooth preparation, likely a commercial oil priming. It has developed a network of sharp age cracks, whose edges are slightly raised; adhesion to the support, however, is adequate. The paint is in very good condition. It has only a few minor patches of drying cracks and no abrasion. All colours look very well bound in oil. The opaque whites and sky tones have softly contoured impasto; the brown areas look, from their tranlucency and smooth brushwork, as if the oil might have a resinous additive.

The varnish looks recent and has a slightly waxy appearance. It was not altered or removed after acquisition. At the Tate the painting has been strip lined with fine canvas and Beva and given a new, wooden, adjustable stretcher fitted with a loose lining of woven Polyester sailcloth. The earlier stretcher has been retained for archival purposes.

Rica Jones
August 2000

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