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House Paints Were Used by Picasso and his Contemporaries

House painting was not the intended use. However, you may be surprised to know that Picasso and his contemporaries, in the earlier part of the twentieth century, used house paints in the creation of their paintings. How did I come upon this interesting piece of trivia?

We, at Painting in Partnership, are painting contractors in the Chicago area. Over the years, we have assembled an extensive collection of paint industry memorabilia, which includes a large collection of paint catalogs from old-time Chicago paint manufacturers of the first half of the twentieth century. All the color cards in the collection contain original paint samples.

Old Ripolin Paint Label

Old Ripolin Paint Label

Earlier in the Summer, I wrote a blog post about my paint catalog collection. Shortly after, I received an email from a researcher who works for the Scottish government. A good part of his research and personal interests are focused on lead-based paints and the development of look-alike alternatives. I quickly arranged for a face-to-face meeting on Skype to discuss his interests and how my collection could be used as a reference point.

In the course of that conversation, he told me of a research project being conducted in France by the Art Institute of Chicago. The four-year-old project aims to document the formulation of the house paints (early oleo-resinous paints) that were used by artists, like Picasso, in that time period. Because the research is being conducted in France for the moment, particular attention is given to the use of the French Ripolin paints. The results of the research will be presented next year at a symposium in southern France entitled “ From Can to Canvas ”. The Art Institute’s partners for this symposium are the Picasso Museum in Antibes and a conservation organization in Marseille.

The scientist form the Art Institute already made contact with me. Perhaps, with the help of my collection of reference materials, a United States chapter can written on the use of house paints by American artists.

This story illustrates the power of the web in connecting people from all over the world who share common concerns and interests; in this case a painting contractor from Chicago who is interested in preserving paint industry memorabilia and historical paint preservation experts who live four thousand miles apart.