Hidden Picasso goes on show

A “secret” painting by the young Pablo Picasso was unveiled at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao on Tuesday after experts found it hidden beneath layers of paint on another of his canvasses.

The 104-year-old painting was on Tuesday hailed as Picasso’s first Paris picture, painted during a visit in 1900 when he was 19.

The painting, which was reconstructed using x-ray techniques, shows the inside of a turn-of-the-century nightclub, with cancan dancers and a crowd of laughing people, some wearing top hats, watching them.

It was painted over by Picasso, who used the canvass for a study of a man, woman and child walking down Rue de Montmartre.

Will Shank, former chief curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, obtained a black and white radiograph of the underlying painting, which revealed, among other things, the Spanish master’s brushstrokes.

“It was not at all unusual for Picasso to reuse his canvasses ... but this was an extraordinary example of a virtually complete composition,” he said on Tuesday.

After working out the colours on Picasso’s palette as he painted the first of a series of pictures of Paris nightlife, Shank made a “virtual” copy of the original. The copy, a backlit transparency, went on display for the first time yesterday.

Shank said he thought Picasso abandoned the original because he decided to turn it into two pictures, one featuring the crowd and the other the dancers.

One of those paintings, Le Moulin de la Galette, was, until Tuesday considered his first work from Paris.

“My theory is that he thought it was too small and tried to fit too much in,” Shank said.
- Guardian Unlimited Â

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