Painter's Secrets Revealed

Every great literary work starts with a first draft and every great painting starts with a first coat. If you've ever wondered what some of the most famous paintings in history looked like before they were hanging on a museum wall, you don't want to miss a fascinating exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneum. 

It's called "What Lies Beneath" and it takes a deeper look at works from some of the world's most famous artists and it unravels some of their outer layers. 

Thanks to technologies like X-rays and infrared reflectography, curators, conservators and art historians can now begin to penetrate the surfaces of paintings to find the "early drafts" of iconic works of art.  

There are only 10 works in this small exhibit, but they reveal the many layers of the artist's soul. The paintings cover about 500 years of art history. Each painting was examined by X-rays and IRR, and the results are on display like a triptych: the original painting, the X-ray image and the infrared image.

Take for instance Claude Monet's 1870 painting "The Beach at Trouville," which depicts a peaceful seascape at the French beach resort.  Using using infrared rays, Wadsworth conservators peered through layers and layers of paint and discovered a huge, ghost sailboat.    

"What Lies Beneath:Revealing Painter's Secrets" runs now through March 29 at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main Street in Hartford.

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