Francis Picabia, Money Is the Reason for Work, 1949
Smart Museum of Art
My name is Maria Kokkori, and I’m specializing in the analysis of modern and contemporary works of art and the intersection between making and meaning of art.
For this particular painting, “Money Is the Reason for Work,” we had this unique opportunity to work together and collaborate, and UChicago students, conservators, curators, and conservation scientists contribute in the study of this work. From an analytical point of view, Picabia’s work represents a challenge. Because Picabia often used and reused his already-painted canvases, and you could see the painting signed at the lower side of the painting. But also if you look carefully and closely there is another hidden signature beneath the red paint on the upper side of the painting, and it is upside down. So that indicates that probably another composition lies underneath the painting surface.
The surface of the painting has an incredible texture, which is composed of matte and glossy areas of paint, Picabia has built up layers of oil paint in a way that allows under close investigation to see the layers beneath the surface through the cracks and specially around the black dots and the white dots. We can see a variety of colors including a yellow, orange, maroon, red, violet, and white paint. So it’s far from monochromatic. And as the X-ray fluorescence analysis revealed the presence of a number of pigments including led base pigments, calcium components, iron based components, and the presence of a zinc white, titanium white, but the most unexpected finding is the presence of gold. There are gold particles near the edges of the red dots that can be seen also with naked eye.
This is wonderful. It is unexpected for the period for this painting was painted and this material evidence can enrich our knowledge of the painting’s biography, and how also the material science can give us insights into the object’s complex narratives.
Long Image DescriptionLong descriptions are text versions of the information provided in a detailed or complex image, like the image above.
Bright red paint, thickly applied, coats most of this painting’s surface, appearing duller, as if mixed incompletely with black, at the top and bottom. Four dots stand out, two black ones and two smaller white ones, each encircled by a ring of fuchsia. One white dot occupies the upper left corner, while the other sits halfway down the painting on the right. The glossier black dot sits a third of the way down the painting at center, whereas the more matte one occupies the center near the lower edge. Just above and to the left of the lower white dot, a glob of red paint bulges out, protruding more than any of the others. Another dot of red paint, mixed with black, bulges out beside the upper black dot. Along the bottom edge, a signature reads “Francis Picabia 1949.” Near the top, red brushstrokes incompletely cover the same signature, upside-down.