Pablo Picasso
Spanish, 1881–1973; worked in France starting in 1904
The Old Guitarist
Late 1903–early 1904

Oil on panel
48 3/8 x 32 1/2 in. (122.9 x 82.6 cm)
Signed, l.r.: "Picasso"
Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.253

Pablo Picasso dominated the development of the visual arts during the first half of the 20th century. Along with Georges Braque, Picasso is best known as one of the creators of Cubism, though he utilized many styles during his career. In the paintings of his Blue Period (1901–1904), such as The Old Guitarist, Picasso worked with a monochromatic palette, flattened forms, and tragic, sorrowful themes.

The tragic themes and expressive style of Picasso's Blue Period began after a close friend committed suicide in Paris. During this time, the artist was sympathetic to the plight of the downtrodden and painted many canvases depicting the miseries of the poor, the ill, and those cast out of society. He knew what it was like to be impoverished, having been nearly penniless during all of 1902.

This bent and sightless man holds close to him a large, round guitar. Its brown body represents the painting’s only shift in color. Both physically and symbolically, the instrument fills the space around the solitary figure, who seems oblivious to his blindness and poverty as he plays. At the time the painting was made, literature of the Symbolist movement included blind characters who possessed powers of inner vision. The thin, skeletonlike figure of the blind musician also has roots in art from Picasso’s native country, Spain. The old man’s elongated limbs and cramped, angular posture recall the figures of the great 16th-century artist El Greco.

Pablo Picasso
Spanish, 1881–1973; worked in France starting in 1904
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler
Autumn 1910

Oil on canvas
39 13/16 x 28 7/8 in. (101.1 x 73.3 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman in memory of Charles B. Goodspeed, 1948.561

Influenced by the breakthroughs of Post-Impressionists such as Paul Cézanne, Picasso no longer sought to imitate nature in his Cubist art. Instead, he invited the viewer to examine the figures and shapes that he broke down and recombined in totally new ways. In this portrait, the subject, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, a dealer who championed Picasso’s radical new style, has been fractured into various planes and shapes and is presented from several points of view. From flickering, partially transparent planes of brown, gray, black, and white emerges his upper torso, hands clasped in his lap.

View artworks

Showing 2 results