Behind Picasso’s Blue Room: Is figure his friend, Carlos Casagemas?

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The Blue Room by Picasso
The Blue Room by Picasso

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2014  – Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period (1901 – 1904) left impressionist art some of its most important works. It is called the Blue Period, not to just reflect the artists mood, but that the artist chose mostly monochromatic paintings in shades of blue to blue green.

Picasso created these works, some say inspired by his homeland in Spain while he was a resident in Paris and to this day the paintings, which are raw and show deep emotion, are some of his most popular – and instantly recognizable – works. The pictures did often reflect Picasso’s poverty with subjects relative to the life – street urchins, beggars, people that are old, frail as well as drunks, beggars and prostitutes.

Picasso is recorded as saying that the period was a result of the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas in February of 1901, though the period is recognized as starting in the fall of that year. Casagemas killed himself after attempting to kill his unrequited love interest, Germaine Pichot.

 

The Death of Casegmas by Picasso (1901) - a post-humous painting of Picasso's good friend
The Death of Casegmas by Picasso (1901) – a posthumous painting of Picasso’s good friend

Now, one of Picasso’s most famous paintings from the period, The Blue Room, seems have been painted over the image of a bearded man wearing a jacket and a bow tie, his face resting on his hand, with three rings on his fingers.

The infrared image behind The Blue Room - darkened and contrast increased to show detail
The infrared image behind The Blue Room – darkened and contrast increased to show detail

The Blue Room has hung as a part of The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC since 1927 and experts have long thought, due to the change in the brush strokes, that there might be a painting beneath.  The practice of painting other works, works that may not have been satisfactory to the artist perhaps, was not uncommon amongst young, impoverished artists.

“This painting ‘The Blue Room’ is very important in (Picasso’s) early work. It’s considered an early Blue Period painting,” Patricia Favero, associate conservator at the Phillips, said of the period early in the artist’s career when he produced often melancholy, mostly monochromatic paintings in shades of blue. “To find this painting underneath — which we think was painted in the same year, just earlier in the year and it’s completely different in style — it gives us some insight into Picasso’s development over the course of that year.”

It took nearly one-hundred years before the image was seen via x-rays taken at The National Gallery of Art, and it was not until 2008, that the advanced infrared technology allowed them to capture a clear photo of the picture beneath.

Experts are attempting to determine who the man hidden behind The Blue Room is. Due to the timing of the painting and the events surrounding his tragic death, and the similarities I see in the men paintings – the high forehead, thin lower face, framing facial hair and slump to the man, who was it seems manic depressive, shoulders, I would wonder if its is not Carlos Casagemas.

The Blue Room is now on tour in South Korea and will return to The Phillips for an exhibition showing in 2017.

Pablo Picasso Painting of his friend Carlos Casagemas
Pablo Picasso Painting of his friend Carlos Casagemas – http://www.wikiart.org/en/Search/portrait%20of%20casagemas#supersized-search-224262

The experts will make that determination in time.

La Vie, 1903 by Pablo Picasso (Painting of his friend Carlos Casagemas)
La Vie, 1903 by Pablo Picasso (Painting of his friend Carlos Casagemas)
Celestina, 1903 by Picasso
Celestina, 1903 by Picasso
Blue Nude, 1902 Picasso
Blue Nude, 1902 Picasso
Femme aux Bras Croises, 1902 by Picasso
Femme aux Bras Croises, 1902 by Picasso
Self Portrait Picasso
Self Portrait Picasso
The Old Guitarist, 1903 by Pablo Picasso
The Old Guitarist, 1903 by Pablo Picasso
The Two Sisters, 1902 by Pablo Picasso
The Two Sisters, 1902 by Pablo Picasso
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