How Can You Find Out What Picasso Painted With In The 1930s And 40s?


The best way to find out the formulas (how much lead, carbon or other organic materials) that Picasso painted with in the 30’s to 40′ would be to contact the institutions where the particular works are located and ask if a material analysis has been performed (e.g., see link at bottom of this post).

According to his friend, art historian & biographer Sir John Richardson, Picasso — unlike Braque, who was very material-conscious and even made his own paint at times — was not too fussy as to what brands of paints he used. I saw a series of color photographs taken in the late 40’s which showed him using Lefranc oil paints. He also used Sennelier supplies since, I believe, their store was not too far from his Rue des Grand Augustins studio.

In addition to oil paints he also worked using Ripolin oil enamel paints on panel, especially in the works done in Antibes after WWII due to scarcities of oil paint and canvas in that area (see F. Gilot, Life with Picasso, 1964, p. 134).

About a year ago I was surprised to read that Guernica was not executed in oil paint but rather in a matte Ripolin. This made sense: Picasso had to finish the enormous work and have it shipped to the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair and I suspect it would have been difficult to such a large painting to have dried sufficiently to be rolled up.In addition, the matte surface would give it a more fresco-like appearance, much like Puvis de Chavannes’ murals in the Pantheon that Picasso studied when he first came to Paris. Also, Picasso’s dislike of glossy, varnished paint surfaces (which extended to his distaste of glossy reproductions in art books) probably played a role in his choice of medium.

For further reading:

For a more detailed chemical analysis:

Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: An Investigation of Materials and Techniques

Image by Nathan Laurell via Flickr

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.

One Comment:

  • Vale: Thanks for doing this research and sharing the resources you found! I had a neighbor whose family runs a forensics lab and they do a lot of research like this on Dali paintings to see if they are fake or not.

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