is painted in artists’ oil paints on primed stretched canvas. The cloth is a mixture of flax (linen) and hemp threads and has a plain open weave with many slubs and other material trapped in the weave. The mark of the artists’ colourman Percy Smith is stamped on the back of the cloth. The canvas is attached to a four-member stretcher with steel tacks, in their original positions. Sizing is visible in the interstices of the weave at the back of the canvas and forms a minimal layer. White primer is also visible at the back filling the open weave. It is evenly applied covering the extant of the canvas and retaining the weave texture. The priming is composed of two distinct layers: a thin dense layer of lead white with chalk or gypsum, kaolin and zinc white over a thicker more transparent layer of chalk, zinc white or zinc sulphide, kaolin and probably silica extender. Gore seems to have experimented with alternatives to pure lead-based primers in the upper layer, initially reducing the proportion of lead white and adding other materials, including zinc white, and later replacing lead white altogether (see also Tate T01960
). It gave him a preparatory surface that was slightly absorbent and retained the rough canvas weave texture. Lead-based primers were also thought to darken over time. Artists had begun to explore alternatives to lead white, such as zinc white, in the late nineteenth century reflecting a growing interest in the whiteness of the preparatory surface dating back to the Pre-Raphaelites in England and the impressionists in France.
The painting is vigorously executed in well-bound oil colours applied to a design freely drawn in dark blue paint (see also Tate T02260
). There is no evidence of squaring-up or any other method for transfer from a drawing. The paint is brushed in broken sweeps of colours, contrasting the blue greens and greys of the foliage in shadow with accents of rustic pinks and browns provided by the broken fence, earth and tree trunks. The more acid greens are enlivened with a few strokes of orange. The blue drawing is restated in several areas during painting with rapid strokes that leave a fluid but broken line. In many areas the white ground is left visible through the broken application of the colour. In others, such as the trees on the far side of the field, a sense of distance is created by working the fluid, misty tones wet-in-wet without drawing to delineate the forms. The accent on colour is maintained by the limited tonal variation of mid-tones and tints while avoiding stark contrasts approaching black and white. The painting is unvarnished.
How to cite
Roy Perry, 'Technique and Condition', April 2004, in Robert Upstone, ‘Letchworth 1912 by Spencer Gore’, catalogue entry, May 2009, in Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt, Jennifer Mundy (eds.), The Camden Town Group in Context, Tate Research Publication, May 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/spencer-gore-letchworth-r1129517, accessed 17 October 2021.