Infrared Imaging Reveals Hidden Secrets Beneath Picasso Painting

first_img Hyperspectral infrared imaging has come a long way since Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period.The technology, used to identify and map artist materials, helped expose undiscovered layers of a 100-year-old Picasso painting.In preparation for an exhibition on the late virtuoso, John Delaney, senior imaging scientist at the National Gallery of Art, traveled halfway around the world to examine “Mother and Child by the Sea,” a Blue Period piece owned by the Pola Museum of Art in Japan.Delaney’s scan revealed more than anyone expected: portions of printed text in French became visible just below Picasso’s oil brushstrokes.“We routinely focus our cameras on a sheet of paper with printed text prior to placing the painting on the easel,” he explained. “To verify we were in good focus, we pointed the camera first at the face of the mother and to my surprise immediately saw newspaper text in her face.”Using the readable content, Pola chief curator Keiko Imai impressively identified the document as an issue of French daily newspaper Le Journal—published on Jan. 18, 1902.“I was surprised and fascinated by this finding in a painting I have always admired at our museum,” Imai said in a statement. “Thanks to Dr. Delaney’s research and hyperspectral imaging technique, we were able to officially confirm that ‘Mother and Child by the Sea’ was painted after the date of the newspaper article used on the canvas.”Exactly what the newsprint was doing among the paint layers remains a mystery. Perhaps Picasso was trying to cover previous mistakes—or an entirely different image. After all, Delaney’s study also showed an earlier signature by the artist in the opposite orientation.“The presence of a paper interleaf begins to make sense of the fine wrinkling in the surface texture and the gentle undulations observed in several areas over the surface,” according to Sandra Webster-Cook, senior paintings conservator at the Art Gallery of Ontario. “It suggests that the paper does not perfectly conform to the underlying paint surface.”Perhaps most interesting, though, is the date, as it is known the artist returned to Barcelona from Paris sometime in early January 1902; this discovery firmly establishes that “Mother and Child by the Sea” was painted in Spain after Jan. 18, 1902.This is just the beginning: New analytical imaging techniques make it easier than ever to research what lies beneath Picasso’s oeuvre, which stretches from the 1890s to his death in 1973.Delaney & Co. have already uncovered more information about “Le Gourmet” and “The Tragedy,” as well as”The Blue Room” and “Woman Ironing.”“Mother and Child by the Sea” is on view through mid-August at the Pola Museum; it will be on loan to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris for their exhibition “Picasso: Blue and Rose” from Sept. 18 through Jan. 6.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target Nanotechnology Gives Mice Night Vision—Are Humans Next?NASA Shares Phone Wallpaper-Worthy Images of Feline Nebula last_img read more