Though useful, the results gleaned from the examination of the painting were only the beginning. Using the x-radiograph and infrared reflectogram as guides, researchers at the Art Institute began scouring photographs of drawings and paintings from Picasso's Blue Period in an attempt to find works that might provide clues to the origin and meaning of the underlying compositions. Art Institute conservators shared their infrared and x-ray images and research with colleagues at the Cleveland Museum of Art. William Robinson, Associate Curator of Paintings at the CMA, identified a sketch in a letter from Picasso to his friend Max Jacob that depicts the same subject as the second composition under The Old Guitarist.
The sketch features a mother and child in exactly the same pose (including the mother's right arm extended behind the child) as the figures seen in the infrared and x-ray images taken at the AIC. Also present in the sketch are a calf and the head of a cow, the cow apparently licking the calf's head. Careful re-examination of the x-rays and infrared images of The Old Guitarist confirmed the presence of the cow's head in the top right corner as well as the tongue, originally thought to be the horn or ear of the calf. Picasso mentioned in his letter to Jacob that he was in the process of completing this painting. Dated "Barcelona 1 Mayo 1903," the letter slightly predates The Old Guitarist (late 1903-early 1904). The problem of identifying the second composition beneath The Old Guitarist was finally solved. It is the very painting Picasso described in his letter to Jacob. No one knows why the artist abandoned the earlier painting, but his letter indicates that he considered it important enough to share with his friend.
Infrared with new contour drawing of mother and child
The contour drawings over the infrared reflectogram and x-radiograph were redrawn to reflect the new information.
X-ray with new contour drawing of mother and child
A sketch of the imploring woman (Museu Picasso, Barcelona) was suggested by Mary Mathews Gedo as a possible composition for the first painting. The sketch is one of several images of desolate women executed by Picasso during the Blue Period. The discovery of the dark form over the head of the older woman, which appeared to have no relation to other forms in any of the compositions combined with the lack of a clear link between the outstretched arms and the smaller head of the older woman suggested the first composition may have been more closely linked to this drawing.
2 days 9 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Congratulations to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on their grand opening this weekend. The building, designed by architect David Adjaye, is a truly historic addition to the National Mall in Washington D.C. #APeoplesJourney #MakingHistory
2 days 12 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Time machines, superheroes, wild creatures, and more… JourneyMaker makes every visit to the museum an adventure.
Try this new digital interactive for families in the museum’s Ryan Learning Center, located in the Modern Wing, or print out a tour at home.
3 days 10 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Today marks the autumn equinox and the official end of summer. Celebrate the changing of the seasons with the latest in ARTicle’s Sound and Vision series, matching songs from around the world with our encyclopedic collection.