Questions Over Fixing Torn Picasso
By CAROL VOGEL
Published: January 25, 2010
Since 1952 “The Actor,” a rare Rose Period Picasso, has hung prominently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with other examples of early paintings by this Spanish master. But on Monday it could be found in a new, temporary home, the Met’s conservation laboratory, where experts there are trying to determine the best course of action for this 105-year-old painting’s brand-new feature: an irregular, six-inch tear running vertically along the lower right-hand corner.
“The Actor,” a rare Rose Period Picasso, was damaged on Friday when a woman accidentally fell into it at the Metropolitan Museum.
On Friday afternoon a woman taking an adult education class at the museum accidentally fell into “The Actor,” causing the tear. Officials at the museum said that since the damage did not occur “in the focal point of the composition,” they expected that the repair would be “unobtrusive,” according to a statement released on Sunday.
The accident recalled another human-canvas run-in involving a Picasso. In 2006 the Las Vegas casino owner Stephen A. Wynn put his elbow through “Le Rêve” (“The Dream”), a 1932 Picasso of the artist’s mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, leaving a sizable hole that has been so artfully repaired that the untutored eye would never know such a fate had befallen it.
But it is difficult to compare a 1932 Picasso with one painted in 1904-5. The early canvases are more delicate and the oil paint is thinner than the enamel-based kind the artist was known to have used later in his career. And then there is the question of whether there’s only one image involved.
“The Actor” was painted when Picasso was only 23. “He was very poor, and these canvases were expensive,” said John Richardson, the Picasso biographer. He explained that if Picasso made a mistake, he couldn’t afford to throw out the canvas, but rather painted over it. “Nearly all these early canvases have something painted underneath,” Mr. Richardson said. Read more...