The Old Guitarist
Artist: Pablo Picasso
Period: Picasso’s Blue Period
Media: Oil paint
Dimensions: 1.23 m x 83 cm
At the time of The Old Guitarist’s creation, Modernism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Symbolism had merged and created an overall movement called Expressionism which greatly influenced Picasso’s style. Furthermore, El Greco, Picasso’s poor standard of living and the suicide of a dear friend influenced Picasso’s style at the time which came to be known as his Blue Period. Several x-rays, infrared images and examinations by curators revealed three different figures hidden behind the old guitarist.The Old Guitarist is an oil painting by Pablo Picasso created late 1903–early 1904. It depicts an old, blind, haggard man with threadbare clothing weakly hunched over his guitar, playing on the streets of Barcelona, Spain. It is currently on display in the Art Institute of Chicago.
A perfect companion piece is Wallace Stevens’s poem, “The Man with the Blue Guitar.” The poet puts words to Picasso’s belief that art is the lie to help us see the truth. Stevens writes: “They said, ‘You have a blue guitar, / You do not play things as they are.’ / The man replied, ‘Things as they are / Are changed upon the blue guitar.'” As a metaphor for the need to immerse oneself fully in one’s grief in order to heal, Denise Levertov’s poem, Talking to Grief is also apropos.
The painting is also notable for the ghostly presence of a mysterious image painted underneath. It is very likely that Picasso originally started painting a portrait of a woman, who appears to possibly be seated, and in an upset or worried mood. Not much of this image is visible except for her face and legs.