Stieglitz and Marin: Together, Apart, and Together Again, Part 1

In this three part series, Conservation Assistant Caroline Hoover outlines the process of treating a photogravure by Marius de Zayas. 

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(left and middle) Marius de Zayas, Alfred Stieglitz and John Marin, 1914. Photogravure, 22.1 x 16.5 cm. Gift of Fern M. Schad, 2004 (right) Camera Work, the source of the piece

This photogravure, Alfred Stieglitz and John Marin, is a work of art that was made from an original drawing by Marius de Zayas and printed onto very thin Japanese tissue. This piece was included in a collection of artists’ works published in the periodical Camera Work XLVI, 1914. Camera Work was a well known publication put together by Stieglitz to support and promote photography as an art form. He included photogravures because they were made from original negatives and often supervised by the artist or even at times printed by the artist himself. As such, they represented the original works very closely. The publication showcased the best examples of photogravure printing.

The photogravure process is the transfer of the original photo negative to a transparency as a positive image. It is then contact printed onto light sensitive paper from which it is then transferred to a copper plate as a negative image. The plate is etched in acid, inked up, and printed as a positive image. As you can imagine, it was a very sophisticated and complicated process that required a lot of finesse.

Beneath Picasso’s The Blue Room

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Left: Paint sample from Picasso’s The Blue Room (1901) showing how yellow, blue, and green paints were mixed while still wet to create a variegated effect. Right: X-ray map showing zinc, chromium, and lead-containing pigments. © 2014 Jennifer Mass, Winterthur Museum

There has been a lot of buzz this summer around the Phillips’s The Blue Room by Pablo Picasso, a 1901 painting created at a time when the young artist was trying on different artistic personalities. In June, an AP exclusive story revealed the image of an underpainting—hidden beneath the surface of the masterwork—uncovered by a team of scientists and conservators from the Phillips, Cornell University, National Gallery of Art, and Winterthur Museum. However, this discovery did not happen overnight. It is the result of many years of collaborative research between the four institutions to reveal details of the contemplative man painted in the hidden image and better understand Picasso’s materials and methods.

On Wednesday, the technical details of this scientific analysis were presented by Winterthur Museum’s Dr. Jennifer Mass at the Synchrotron Radiation and Neutrons in Art and Archaeology Meeting (SR2A 2014) in Paris. Her presentation addressed the palette and painting methods Picasso used for the two works and the relationship between those palettes. She also explored the wealth of information acquired through the combination of the cross-section studies, molecular analyses, hyperspectral reflectance imaging, and XRF imaging.

The Blue Room is currently being exhibited in an international exhibition at the Daejeon Museum of Art in central Korea, but the collaborating institutions will continue their research efforts as the museum prepares for a 2017 exhibition that centers on Picasso and this seminal painting.

Behind the Blue: The Outliers

After discovering a hidden painting underneath the Phillips’s The Blue Room (1901) by Pablo Picasso, conservators and curators are still researching the identity of the person in the portrait. You’ve been calling, e-mailing, tweeting, and posting your ideas about who the mystery man might be. We’re sharing information on the most popular suggestions here on the blog. Today, we focus on some of the most fun, though perhaps unlikely, suggestions.

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Images left to right: (Top) James Lipton; Georges Braque; Louis CK (Middle) Lady Gaga; Infrared of Pablo Picasso’s The Blue Room (1901). The Phillips Collection, copyright 2008; Vincent van Gogh (Bottom) Paul Cézanne; Paul Gauguin; Luciano Pavarotti

While the suggestion may not have been a serious one, we can’t help seeing the striking resemblance between James Lipton (top left) and the portrait found behind Picasso’s The Blue Room (center) after one of our Facebook fans suggested it to us. Same goes for Louis CK; Lady Gaga, however, is a bit more of a stretch even in jest. Above are some of our favorite suggestions thus far, comedic or otherwise.

Send us your idea of who the mystery man may be with #BlueRoom or in the comments below.