Object Image

The Old Guitarist

Pablo Picasso produced The Old Guitarist, one of his most haunting images, while working in Barcelona. In the paintings of his Blue Period (1901–4), of which this is a prime example, Picasso restricted himself to a cold, monochromatic blue palette; flattened forms; and the emotional, psychological themes of human misery and alienation, which are related to the Symbolist movement and the work of such artists as Edvard Munch. Picasso presented The Old Guitarist as a timeless expression of human suffering. The bent and sightless man holds his large, round guitar close to him; its brown body is the painting’s only shift in color. The elongated, angular figure of the blind musician relates to the artist’s interest in the history of Spanish art and, in particular, the great sixteenth-century artist El Greco. Most personally, however, the image reflects the struggling twenty-two-year-old Picasso’s sympathy for the plight of the downtrodden; he knew what it was like to be poor, having been nearly penniless during all of 1902. His works from this time depict the miseries of the destitute, the ill, and the outcasts of society.

Credit: Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection

late 1903–early 1904
Oil on panel
122.9 x 82.6cm
Image © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Text courtesy of Art Institute of Chicago

Where you'll find this

Art Institute of Chicago
Permanent collection