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Analysis of Picasso’s ‘Blue Room’ reveals hidden man

June 22, 2014 at 4:21 PM EDT
For more than a century, art lovers have studied Picasso’s blue period, which was set in motion by his celebrated work, "The Blue Room." But for decades, something of a mystery has surrounded the piece. Alison Stewart reports.
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ALISON STEWART: Technology has changed the way we communicate, the way we do business and now the way we see art. Thanks to some scientific wizardry, a once rumored secret work by Pablo Picasso has proven to be the real thing.

For more than a century now, art lovers have studied Picasso’s blue period, which was set in motion by this work, “The Blue Room.”

But for decades, something of a mystery has surrounded the work. As early as the 1950s, those in the know wondered about the uneven brush strokes in the painting. In the 1970s, x-rays discovered some sort of murky image behind the bathing blonde woman.

It wasn’t until 21st century infrared technology that the truth was revealed and confirmed by the Philips Collection experts: When creating “The Blue Room,” Picasso painted over another work — a portrait of a bearded man wearing a bow tie.

PATRICIA FAVERO: Picasso was known to paint over his own pictures. There are other examples, where there’s documentation, there’s drawing, there’s other types of documentation where it confirms the painting underneath the painting is by Picasso.

ALISON STEWART: One explanation for why Picasso would do such a thing has less to do with art and more to do with money. Or the lack of it. At the time, the 20-year-old Spaniard living in Paris was just one more struggling artist, and to preserve what little he had, he sometimes reused canvasses.

SUSAN FRANK: What we’re trying to understand by identifying this person is something about the circle of individuals that Picasso was interacting with at this very important moment early in his career when he was just really beginning to make his name known.

ALISON STEWART: For now, we can all still marvel at a new view of “The Blue Room.”