Piccaso Used Average House Paint
Among the Picasso paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago collection, The Red Armchair is the most emblematic of his Ripolin usage and is the painting that was examined with APS X-rays at Argonne National Laboratory.

Credit: Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Saidenberg (AIC 1957.72) © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Picasso Used Average House Paint

"The Red Armchair"

An article written by Clara Moskowitz of LiveScience, shed some light on a particular Pablo Picasso painting – 
“The Red Armchair,” completed in 1931, which Physicists at Argonne National Laboratory borrowed from the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Physicists wanted to aim their nanoprobe at Pablos’ painting to find out what it was really made of, that happens to be average house paint!

Good Intentions

This nanoprobe gives scientists a super magnified view of the arrangement of chemical elements in any given material, in this case, “The Red Armchair”. The nanoprobe was “designed to enhance the development of high-performance materials and sustainable energies”.

Now, more about the man – Pablo was very well-known for his cubism art, Picasso was unconventional when it came to painting.
X-ray analysis of some of the painter’s masterworks solves a long-standing mystery about the type of paint the artist used on his canvases, revealing that Pablo Picasso used average house paint.

Art scholars had always thought that Picasso was one of the first ever master artists to use average house paint, rather than traditional artists’ paint, to achieve a glossy style that hid brush marks. There was no absolute confirmation of this theory, until now.

Which House Paint?

The final analysis indicated that Pablo Picasso used average house paint, specifically, enamel paint. This specific enamel paint was one of the first ever commercial household paints, called Ripolin, the scientists were able to compare the painting’s pigment with those of paints which were available at the time by analyzing decades-old paint samples bought on eBay.

Additionally, the in-depth study, which used X-rays to probe the painting’s pigment down to the scale of 30 nanometers (a sheet of copier paper is 100,000 nanometers thick), was able to pinpoint the manufacturing region where the paint was made by studying its particular impurities.

“The nanoprobe at the [Advanced Photon Source X-ray facility and the Center for Nanoscale Materials] allowed unprecedented visualization 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,” one of the research leaders, Argonne’s Volker Rose, said in a statement.

Art scholars believe that Picasso fiddled around with Ripolin in order to gain a different effect than would’ve been possible with traditional oil paints, which take a while to dry. In comparison, average house paint dries much faster and leaves effects like marbling, muted edges, and even drips of paint. The experts still couldn’t be sure that average house paint was the key to Picasso’s look without solid evidence.


“Appearances can deceive, so this is where art can benefit from scientific research,” said Francesca Casadio, senior conservator scientist at the Art Institute of Chicago. “We needed to reverse-engineer the paint so that we could figure out if there was a fingerprint that we could then go look for in the pictures around the world that are suspected to be painted with Ripolin, the first commercial brand of house paint.”

The scientists detailed their findings in the journal Applied Physics A: Materials Science & Processing.

You can find the original article at Argonne National Laboratory

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