The Artist’s Wife
is painted in artists’ oil paints on primed stretched canvas. There is a paper label with a handwritten ink inscription on the back of the stretcher. It is consistent with others found on the back of Gore’s work, which were written and attached posthumously by Harold Gilman in 1914 (see also Tate T02260
). The label reads: ‘Portrait of Mrs S.F. Gore. | Painted by S.F. Gore at 2 Houghton Place. | N.W. in 1913. unsigned | (171) (a).’ The canvas is made of a mixture of flax (linen) and hemp fibres and has a plain open weave. Sizing was applied to the cloth forming a minimal layer of animal glue. A double-white primer covering the extant of the canvas was evenly applied and retains the weave texture. The upper layer of the primer contains lithopone, which is also found in other paintings by Gore of this period (see also Tate T01960
). The marks of the artists’ colourman Percy Young are stamped on the centre of the back of the canvas and on one of the stretcher bar members (see also Tate N05099
). The primed canvas is stretched onto a four-member stretcher and retains its original attachment with steel tacks. The dimensions of the support match the standard commercial size, historically called ‘three-quarter size’, indicating that it was probably purchased pre-stretched.
The composition was freely sketched in paint without any visible preparatory drawing. What may have been the initial indication of the features in dark blue paint can just be glimpsed within the eyebrows and parting of the lips (see also Tate T02260
). The portrait, although simplified in form and free of unnecessary detail, is intensively worked. Gore has built up several layers of paint, keeping each application of colour fresh and clean. Paint was applied in bodied mixtures that retain some brushmarking. In some areas the paint appears to have been thinned, probably with a dilutent before application. This allowed Gore to work briskly over large areas, which were then modified with strokes applied wet-in-wet. The assured working of the costume, furniture and walls form a lively backdrop for the intense painting of the portrait. The furniture and walls are rendered in dense colours that largely obliterate the white priming, while the reflections in the glazed cabinet, blue costume and hands incorporate broken passages of colour through which the priming is visible. The strong shape of the costume is defined with dark outlines during painting while the uncertain position of the hands remains unresolved. There are traces of varnish residue trapped in the texture of the paint.
How to cite
Roy Perry, 'Technique and Condition', June 2004, in Robert Upstone, ‘The Artist’s Wife 1913 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-the-artists-wife-r1139857, accessed 23 September 2021.