House paint behind Picasso's genius

Scientists have finally solved a long-standing mystery about the type of paint renowned Spanish artist Pablo Picasso used on his canvases, revealing it to be basic house paint. The 20th-Century artist, famous for pushing the boundaries of art with cubism, also broke with convention when it came to paint, found new research which used X-ray techniques to analyse some of the painter’s masterworks.

Art scholars had long suspected that Picasso was one of the first master artists to employ house paint, rather than traditional artists’ paint, to achieve a glossy style that hid brush marks. There was no absolute confirmation of this, however, until now.Physicists at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, trained their hard X-ray nanoprobe at Picasso’s painting “The Red Armchair”, completed in 1931, which they borrowed from the Art Institute of Chicago, LiveScience reported. The nanoprobe instrument can “see” details down to the level of individual pigment particles, revealing the arrangement of particular chemical elements in the paint. The analysis showed that Picasso used enamel paint that matches the precise chemical composition of the first brand of commercial house paint, called Ripolin.

 The researchers were able to compare the painting’s pigment with those of paints available at the time by analysing decades-old paint samples bought on eBay. The study, which used X-rays to probe the painting’s pigment down to the scale of 30 nanometres, was  able to pinpoint the manufacturing region .

“The nanoprobe at the allowed unprecedented visualisation of information about chemical composition within a singe grain of paint pigment, significantly reducing doubt that Picasso used common house paint in some of his most famous works,” research leaders, Argonne’s Volker Rose, said.

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