Boats at Skerries, Ireland
The canvas shows six moored Dublin fishing vessels with the mudbank next to the harbour
wall becoming visible as the tide ebbs. Skerries, on the outskirts of Dublin, is a village of some
antiquity with round towers and ruins dating from the twelfth century. The harbour gate is a late
Georgian structure of a style common to Ireland. On the green rising hills in the background we see
two stone built villages with red tiled roofs, the right one surmounted by a campanile. Some
shadows from the boats are reflected in the blue sea in the foreground, broken up by ripples,
traces of the mudbanks, and in the deeper sections, buoys bobbing in the water.
The overall appearance is one of highly saturated colours, particularly in the fight cadmium
red of the boat on the left, the cobalt violet and madders of the centre section boathouses and the
intense white hull of the foreground boat. These are foiled by the ochre colour used in the harbour
wall, the sombre greens of the hills which continue to the head of the canvas, the verticals of the
multicoloured masts and the earth coloured village. The intense movement of line and colour ends
sharply at the waterline where relief is provided by the soft pastel blues, whites, ochres and
ombers of the sea passage.
Oil based pigment is used overall with a glaze of acrylic tint over the red of the boat on the left to add intensity and also to soften the primary colours and whites in the foreground. The texture of the surface is a notable characteristic of the painting provided by the use of a handwoven linen canvas of an irregular weave manufactured about two hundred years ago that the artist recovered on the back of an ancient painting. This is moderately primed with an acrylic white to preserve its irregularities which, upon close examination of the surface, are noticeable.
The painting was begun in Australia in 1979 on the basis of a double spread pencil drawing that Matthew made in Skerries some years previously. The hill villages derive from the gouache painting done about the same time, of the hill. village of Lingueglietta The artist made a subsequent drawing of the harbour archway to be incorporated in the final work but then not used. The painting was brought to a conclusion in February 1982 by the development of the green background and villages, and the application of a denser more impasto based pigment to the surface of the sea in the foreground.
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