Earlier this year, The New York Times reported on a major discovery made by Northwestern scientists, in partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago. An interdisciplinary team had used tools originally developed for medicine, manufacturing and geology to discover hidden details in the Picasso’s paintings and sculptures. Audiences learned more about this fascinating story, which offers new perspective on the art and science of Picasso’s paintings. Allison Langley, Head of Paintings Conservation at the Art Institute of Chicago discussed how new findings shape our historical understanding of Picasso’s life and working methods, while Emeline Pouyet, Post Doctoral Fellow in Materials Science at Northwestern, addressed how she and others applied tools used by NASA to explore the rare materials and underdrawings within Picasso’s work.
Watch the Video:
Read: In Picasso’s Blue Period, Scanners Find Secrets He Painted Over (The New York Times, Kenneth Chang, February 20, 2018)
Using tools originally developed for medicine, manufacturing and geology, the researchers peered through the canvas without damaging it. They saw how Picasso had incorporated the contours of hills from the earlier painter’s landscape into the curves of the woman’s back. “Kind of a jazz riff back and forth,” said Marc Walton, a research professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern.
The analysis also uncovered Picasso’s repeated efforts to paint the woman’s right arm. He ultimately abandoned that part of the composition, covering it with a cloak.
“So this again is getting into the mind of the artist and understanding his creative process,” Dr. Walton said.