Japanese Museum Unveils Underlying Paintings From Picasso’s ‘Blue Period’

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“Mother and Child by the Sea” by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 1902 (Image courtesy of Pola Museum of Art)

TOKYO – The three layers of paintings under ‘Mother and Child by the Seashore’ by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) included images of a man and a child, Pola Museum of Art in Kanagawa Prefecture, which owns the oil painting, announced here on June 30.

The museum also revealed that newspaper ink used to wrap the painting could be seen smeared on the surface of the painting. The artwork (81.7 by 59.8 centimeters) will be available to the public at the Pola Museum from September 17 and at the Hiroshima Museum of Art from February 4, 2023.

Picasso painted Mother and Child by the Sea at the age of 20, during his “blue period” when he expressed his views on life and death and poverty using dark blue colors. From previous research, it is known that the painting consisted of four layers, including the surface, and that there was an image of a woman in one of these layers. The Pola Museum’s latest discovery revealed that a painting of a child dressed in white was on the very bottom, a portrait of a woman on top, and then a picture of a man with a mug of beer on the second layer.






A partial image of “Mother and Child by the Seaside” using infrared imaging spectroscopy shows newspaper letters on the woman’s face. (C) John Delaney, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2018

The Pola Museum’s chief curator, Keiko Imai, said, “Although the paint on the surface is a thin layer, it looks voluminous and rich due to the multiple layers underneath.” She added, “Picasso used the shapes, texture and hues below as resources for the multi-layered painting. We can see his working process (from this painting).”

It was previously thought that newspaper was stuck under the painting, but it turned out that the ink from the newspaper used as the wrapping paper for the painting had stained the surface. Picasso apparently chose not to remove the smudged writing from the diary and gifted the painting to a friend. Imai said that Picasso often used collages of letters in his Cubist works after the Blue Period, but “he allowed the letters to appear in his work even before that”.

(Japanese original by Yuri Hirabayashi, Cultural News Department)

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