What Makes Picasso’s Three Women at the Spring Modern?
Curators and conservators look closely at a painting made in the artist’s garage studio during a pivotal summer.
Oct 5, 2023
From left: Pablo Picasso. Three Musicians. Fontainebleau, 1921. Oil on canvas, 6' 8 1/2" × 6' 2 1/8" (204.5 × 188.3 cm). The Philadelphia Museum of Art. A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1952; Pablo Picasso. Three Musicians. Fontainebleau, 1921. Oil on canvas, 6' 7" × 7' 3 3/4" (200.7 × 222.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. Both works © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Getting up close
Detail of Three Women at the Spring (The Museum of Modern Art, New York) in raking light, illustrating the painting’s surface
From left: Detail of Three Women at the Spring (The Museum of Modern Art, New York); Reflected infrared view of the same detail of Three Women at the Spring (The Museum of Modern Art, New York)
AU: Sure! It seems to me that for Picasso the hands, like the figures’ heads, are focal points within the composition, and that their interrelationships are key. We’ve also become very curious about the relation of the hand at the far right to the water source, and the illogical play between the two.
AA: Many lighting techniques were used to examine the painting, such as ultraviolet, raking light, and infrared. In this image, the water coming from the spring appears to be flowing behind the central figure’s hand, which is counterintuitive. Infrared reflectography is an imaging technique that penetrates the paint layers and allows you to see underdrawings and other features below the layer of paint. This technique was used to investigate if there was an underdrawing showing the water flowing over the palm of her hand under the paint. The infrared image did not reveal anything conclusive.
Picasso in Fontainebleau is on view at MoMA through February 17, 2024.
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