Swiss Cottage is painted in artists’ oil paints on what appears to be a commercially primed canvas. The fine, plain weave cloth, probably linen, seems to have an animal glue sizing and white oil priming overall. The thin, even layer of priming retains the texture of the canvas weave and has good adhesion to it.
The primed canvas was stretched onto the four-member stretcher and may retain its original attachment. At some time the tacking edges began to fail and all the edges have been covered in situ with strips of fabric and tough glue. This strip-lining is in stable condition and covers the original rusted steel tacks and split and torn tacking edges that may have been damaged as a result of wear from the sharp edges of the stretcher bars.
There is no initial drawing visible; outline and other linear elements are continuous with the painting at all levels. Outlines are not used consistently across the painting but are dominant in some areas such as the departing bus, which has luminous colours within dark contours like stained glass. The general shape of each object is filled in with local colours that are gently modulated to describe form and occasionally add details. A few areas of the first colouring remain unmodified by subsequent work. One such area is the upper sky where the bold broken brushwork reveals the priming. Karlowska has re-worked most areas to achieve the desired colour balance. Some changes are marked, such as the repainting of the fruiterer’s awning at the right from pink to grey green. In other areas the re-workings are developments and modifications rather than complete revisions of earlier work. Select elements, such as the figures on the far pavement, appear to have been added as an afterthought over earlier work. The re-working of the yellow walls of the left-hand building and of the sky around the chimney pots appear slightly darker in tone than intended compared to adjacent areas, suggesting that these changes were also made after the initial painting had thoroughly dried. The toning down of the strong local and contrasting colours in the middle distance gives a greater sense of space and draws focus to the strong local colour such as the bus and fruit and the foreground figures. The intermixing of vibrant colours is used to add interest to the surface of the road while the strong purple shade of the far pavement is reduced by scumbling over with grey. Although there is no general varnish layer, variations in gloss suggest that the surface has been locally saturated by oiling out or applying varnish during painting.
How to cite
Roy Perry, 'Technique and Condition', June 2004, in Robert Upstone, ‘Swiss Cottage Exhibited 1914 by Stanislawa de Karlowska’, 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/stanislawa-de-karlowska-swiss-cottage-r1129515, accessed 19 April 2021.