Art gallery uses tech to uncovers layers behind Picasso paintings

A composite image of hyper-spectral imaging has revealed a hand holding what appears to be a piece of bread, which Picasso then painted over with the shroud, in his work La Misereuse accroupie, shown in this recent handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and National Gallery of Art (NGA).

Researchers at the Art Gallery of Ontario say they have technologically peeled back layers of compositions embedded in Pablo Picasso‘s blue period paintings to uncover new insights about the artist’s process.

Assistant curator of modern art Kenneth Brummel says the findings are the product of an international collaboration that places the Toronto gallery among the top museums in the world when it comes to Picasso studies.

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Sandra Webster-Cook, the gallery’s senior painting conservator, says sophisticated imaging and analysis of Picasso’s “La Soupe” revealed the artist painted over an abandoned outline of a woman.

Brummel says scans of the 1902 painting “La Misereuse accroupie” suggest that Picasso used an underlying landscape painted by another artist to shape the final composition.

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Webster-Cook says Picasso reused canvases at certain points in his career out of economic necessity, but the research suggests the practice eventually became part of his artistic process.

Brummel says revelations from the study will be featured in a 2020-2021 exhibition on Picasso’s blue period co-organized by the AGO and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

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