CultureArtPicasso’s, ‘The Old Guitarist’: Art in the time of...

Picasso’s, ‘The Old Guitarist’: Art in the time of sorrow


Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist’ is oil on panel and about 48 inches by 32 inches. It was painted between 1903 and 1904 when Picasso was 22 years old. Picasso painted this during the ‘Blue Period’ of his life. This ‘Blue Period’ was marked by the use of a monochromatic blue palette, that depicted something melancholic and sombre. It is believed that Picasso’s blue period began after his friend, Carlos Casagemas committed suicide.

The painting has an old, fatigued man playing the guitar in a blue, sullen atmosphere. The whole painting is painted in a monochromatic blue palette that puts out a sense of sorrow except the guitar the man is holding that is in a warmer color, brown. This makes the guitar a point of focus in the painting, a symbolism of warmth and hope. It gives an idea of how an artist can hold on to his/her art for some hope, even in the darker times.

‘The Old Guitarist’ by Pablo Picasso

Just like the guitarist holds on to his guitar, similarly, Picasso might have wanted to hold on to this painting during his dark times. It is said that the guitarist in the painting is a victim of poverty, which is the reason for his depicted melancholy because Picasso himself lived his life in poverty for several years, in fact, some researchers have pointed out other figures in this painting including the face of a woman behind the man’s which indicated the numerous paintings he had done on the same canvas due to the lack of funds.

There are two interpretations of the closed eyes of the guitarist, he can be blind and his only guiding light is his art or he is very alive and involved in his art and thoughts, but his body is decrepit and the situation out of his own control. There is also a progression from light to dark in the painting. Picasso uses a lot of white and light blues toward the left, especially near the guitarist’s head, and then progressively uses darker and darker blues toward the right. It is almost black to the farthest right of the painting.

Text by: Sreyoshi Sil, IBTN9

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