By Claudia Fennell ’24
Even from beyond the grave, famous Spanish artist Pablo Picasso is finding ways to continue to amaze art lovers.
Picasso started creating his artwork at the turn of the 20th century, when modern art was becoming increasingly popular. Picasso is honored as the founder of the Cubism movement, a modern art style of painting involving figures and shapes that challenges viewers to see art in a nontraditional way. He is also famous for paintings such as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, The Weeping Woman, and The Old Guitarist.
Picasso passed away in 1973 at the age of 91 and left behind a lifetime of priceless art pieces that are admired by the public in various museums. One of his works that is currently receiving significant attention is a painting from 1903 titled The Blind Man’s Meal. Recent x-ray imaging of this painting has shown a hidden figure painted underneath the blind man. The newly revealed painting is now being referred to as The Lonesome Crouching Nude.
This discovery was made possible by Oxia Palus, a company that uses modern technology to restore lost art. It was founded by George Cann and Anthony Bourached, a team of PhD candidates in machine learning from the University College London. They use x-ray imaging, digital scanning, and artificial intelligence.
In the case of the Picasso paintings, the company started out by using x-rays to reveal the figure that was painted over. Then they used image processing to find the outline before employing trained artificial intelligence to “paint in” the hidden figure in the style of Picasso. The end result was an AI-generated digital reproduction of the work that Picasso created over a century ago. This was then 3-D printed onto an AI-generated canvas, which is on display at the Deeep Ai Art Fair in Shoreditch, East London.
The revealed image is of a female nude figure that Picasso would have painted in his Blue Period, right at the beginning of his art career. This period lasted from 1901-1904 and showcased sorrowful subjects, painted mostly in the color blue. Picasso was young at this point in his life and did not have much money, so art supplies were often hard to come by. When speaking to CNN, George Cann explained, “He was poor and artist materials were expensive, so he likely painted over the former work with reluctance.” The second painting that he ended up creating on that canvas turned into one of his most famous from this time period in his life, so perhaps Picasso made the right choice.
However, his original work on that canvas has finally been exposed, revealing a beautiful figure that had been concealed for so long. Thanks to the help of artificial intelligence, there is great potential for other mysteries of historic artwork to be discovered in the near future.