Nanoscale studies of chips of paint have bolstered the notion that Pablo Picasso created some of his masterworks with ordinary house paint. Chemical analysis of the chips may lead to better art conservation techniques.
Historians had suspected that Picasso was one of the first master painters to switch from traditional oil paints to the fast-drying enamel paint normally reserved for household work. Previous analyses were inconclusive because it was not possible to identify individual elements with enough resolution.
In search of a new approach, Volker Rose of the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois teamed up with Francesca Casadio, a conservationist at the Art Institute of Chicago. Using an X-ray nano-probe, a tool for measuring the type and location of chemical elements in a sample, they examined paint from five works.
Rose found that levels of zinc oxide and iron in the paint closely matched samples of 1930s Ripolin (Applied Physics A, doi.org/kf2), a household brand. Picasso's use of house paint marks the birth of a new artistic style.
"We have opened the nanoworld to culture heritage," says Rose, adding that the probe could also inform studies of ageing and deterioration of artworks.
source: New Scientist