The Old Guitarist
Picasso, 1903/04, Oil on panel, 122.9 x 82.6 cm
For some time now, Picasso’s ‘The Old Guitarist’, has been one of my favourite paintings and I have never really expressed why. I’m not particularly a Picasso fan, but his work from the ‘Blue Period’, is of particular interest to me. The Old Guitarist was painted in 1903 shortly after the unexpected suicide of his close friend, Casagemas.
The image itself is dark and depressing, a man who seems to be in pain and expresses so much despair, enhanced by the shades of blue. Typically blue is a colour that is trusted, but here it looks cold and mysterious and portrays the tragic reality of this man’s life. The monochromatic theme featured throughout Picasso’s Blue Period enhances the sorrow and sadness of the images. The man clutches a large acoustic guitar, its brown body contrasting to the blue darkness of the scene. The instrument fills a large space around the fragile man both physically and symbolically. Picasso may have been influenced by his historical Spanish roots, the figures lanky body and awkward posture is similar to the work of El-Greco, the Spanish Renaissance artist.
I think what first attracted me to this painting was the graphic contrast between the light and dark, reminiscent of so many computer generated illustrations seen today. The juxtaposition of the dark sorrowful figure and the guitar is also interesting. The guitar has connotations of music and happiness, an instrument that can change my mood from miserable to content instantly. This put into such a gloomy composition lifts the mood, and to me shows that the man has not yet lost all hope, he still has his guitar, and the gift of music to carry him through.
Image sourced from: http://www.artinthepicture.com/artists/Pablo_Picasso/the_old_guitarist.jpeg