conservation in detail Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid

Pablo Ruiz Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973)


Mujer en azul (Woman in Blue), c.1901


Oil on canvas

133 x 100 cm (52½" x 39½")

© 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Mujer en azul (Woman in Blue), painted in 1901 by a young Picasso at the beginning of his Blue Period, is one of the Reina Sofia’s most important and popular works, with approximately two million visitors viewing it every year. Over recent decades, following an earlier restoration involving the liberal application of varnish, Woman in Blue became greener than Picasso’s intended blue. The contrast between lighter and darker areas consequently seemed more muddied, and the painting lost much of its original drama.

The conservation effort carried out by a team of eight experts in the Reina Sofia’s own conservation studio was completed, and Woman in Blue is on public display, allowing visitors to view her in all her original glory. The team carried out close analysis of the painting using the most sophisticated technology, including visible light macro photography, infrared reflectography, UV light and radiography. They removed the layer of varnish in order to reveal the painting’s original colors, also leaving Picasso’s first brushstrokes more clearly visible and more easily appreciated.

Before Mujer en azul (Woman in Blue), c.1901 After

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