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The Mystery Behind Why Some Picasso Paintings Deteriorate Faster Than Others

Four Picasso paintings are a subject of a new multidisciplinary project to prevent degradation through environmental control. The four artworks were made from new mercerised cotton canvases, oil paints based on drying oils such as linseed and sunflower, and animal glue which was used to coat the canvases. After being exposed to identical conditions, staff from the Museu Picasso in Barcelona questioned why one of the works, Hombre sentado (Seated man), deteriorated faster than the other Picasso artworks: 

Picasso used a canvas with a tighter weave for Hombre sentado, coating it with a thicker ground layer of animal glue, researchers found. Both factors meant larger internal stresses formed when the paintings were exposed to fluctuating humidity, while chemical reactions between certain pigments and binding media sparked chemical reactions that caused paints to degrade. As a result, the paints gradually cracked when stresses built, Francesca Izzo, a conservation and heritage scientist at Ca’ Foscari, tells The Art Newspaper.
In the past, conservators have relied mainly on chemical analysis to determine how some materials lead to deterioration. Combining such studies with those of more tangible signs of mechanical damage offers a more rounded picture, allowing conservators to take more informed conservation decisions. “As a conservator-restorer I was finding it difficult to define a conservation strategy: the chemical perspective was not enough, so I started looking for a complementary perspective,” Fuster-López says. The team's discoveries, she hopes, will aid other conservators. “It is our responsibility to supply them with the right tools and understanding of materials.”

Image via the Art Newspaper 


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