On 29th November, together with the Universitat Politècnica de València we organised the international symposium, «Around Picasso: an insight into the relationship between material choices and failure mechanisms» with the attendance of more than 120 professionals. The aim was to present the first conclusions of the R&D project ProMeSA through the scientific study that the new technologies allow to be carried out of Picasso’s works. This is, therefore, a multi-disciplinary work for knowing and preventing the physiochemical deterioration of the materials that the artist used throughout his career.
As emphasized by the director of the Museu Picasso, Emmanuel Guigon, the symposium was proof that Picasso was an artist who broke down boundaries, given that technicians, scientists, historians and teachers from France, Italy, the United States and Japan, among others, participated. For her part, the head of the Department of Restoration and Preventive Conservation of the Museum, Reyes Jiménez, stated that working with just one artist is positive because it has allowed the research of the ProMeSA project to be much more profitable.
The first part of the conference was dedicated to the guest speakers. Thus, Marion F. Mecklenburg, a Washington Smithsonian researcher, talked about how the extreme levels of relative humidity can cause damage to canvas paintings. Furthermore, Mecklenburg stated that “low temperatures can be beneficial for paints provided they are below the glass transition temperature (Tg). On the other hand, high temperatures are always dangerous. ”
Michal Lukomski, a scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, recalled that the preservation strategies for museums’ collections «require prior understanding of chemical, biological and mechanical deterioration processes» and highlighted the advantages of techniques such as nanoindentation, which allows the mechanical properties of the paints to be measured. Finally, Emanuela Bosco, from the University of Eindhoven, dedicated her talk to the formation of metal soaps and mechanical damage to traditional oil painting.
Following this, the second part of the symposium began, in which thirteen case studies carried out of Picassian works were presented, such as Mother and son next to the sea (1902), Still life (1922) and The three dancers ( 1925). The research has not only allowed the degradation mechanisms to be shown, but also led to interesting artistic findings being made. For example, Keiko Imai, curator of the Pola Museum of Art, discovered the remains of ink from a newspaper of Paris from 1902 stuck to the painting Mother and child by the Sea and there are the remains of a newspaper of the January 18, 1902.
Regarding the conservation of paintings, Claire Guérin stated that the works are four times more likely to deteriorate when they travel than when they are exhibited, and posed the question of whether Picasso is the victim of his own success considering the fact that in the 2017, 71 exhibitions dedicated to the artist around the world were organized. Focusing on specific techniques, Pierre Antoine Héritier pointed out that the velvety finish that some paintings have is essential for understanding the work well and care must be taken to preserve it, since successive cleanings can eliminate it, and even cause chromatic alterations.
The last talk of the conference was given by Reyes Jiménez, who proposed a new way of looking at the painting “Science and Charity”, which has been in a full process of restoration in the rooms of the Museum. Jimenez said that “Science and Charity” is a “wounded” painting because it has undergone changes from its genesis that have transformed its surface and its state of conservation, to the point of dismantling its internal structure. Retrieving the splendour of this important work by Picasso has been a laborious and complex task.
All the talks of the international symposium “Around Picasso” can be freely consulted in the programme that we attach below, as well as reading them in the portal Springer Nature. Journal of Applied Sciences. If you wish, you can also take a look at the live streaming that we did from the Twitter channel and see the most important images of the day in the Flickr account of the Museu Picasso.
Videos of the talks:
Presentation of the ProMeSA project – Study of the mechanical and dimensional properties of commercially manufactured paint. Influence on the physical and chemical degradation of modern and contemporary paintings.
Laura FUSTER LÓPEZ
Marion F. MECKLENBURG
Emanuela BOSCO, Gijs J.A.M. EUMELEN and Akke S.J. SUIKER
Cecil K. Andersen and Anna Vila
Annette KING and Joyce H. TOWNSEND
Case study 3. New insights into Pablo Picasso’s La Miséreuse accroupie (Barcelona, 1902) using in-situ infrared reflectance and x-ray fluorescence imaging spectroscopy combined with micro-analyses of samples.
Emeline POUYET, Kenneth BRUMMEL, Francesca CASADIO, Sandra WEBSTER- COOK, Catherine DEJOIE, John DELANEY, Gianluca PASTORELLI and Marc WALTON
Case study 4. Mother and child by the Sea, Barcelona 1902.
Keiko IMAI, John DELANEY, Sandra WEBSTER-COOK and Reyes JIMÉNEZ GARNICA
Allison LANGLEY, Kimberley MUIR and Ken SUTHERLAND
Maria Teresa PULLANO, David BUTI, Eleonora PAPA, Eva NYGÅRDS, Loa LUDVIGSEN and Jørgen WADUM
Charity FOX, Joyce H. TOWNSEND and Betty SACHER (+link to video)
Clara BONDÍA, Lorenzo HORTAL, Adelina ILLÁN and Rafael ROMERO
Pierre Antoine HERITIER
Reyes Jiménez Garnica, Museu Picasso, Barcelona
Written by the museum