The Old Guitarist Painting

WHO WAS pablo picasso?

Picasso may have spent much of his time practicing in Paris, but he was born in the Mediterranean coastal town of Malaga in Spain. From a very young age, he was showing signs of being an exceptional draftsman.

the old guitarist

The painting depicts an old man washed in an unearthly lunar light. Because of his worn clothes, we can surmise that he is destitute. His closed eyes tell us that he might be blind. He appears to be sitting on the floor, legs crossed.

The death of casagemas (1901)

The death of his friend, Carles Casagemas, led to his first major breakthrough. As he became consumed with Casagemas’ suicide, he began to commit the memory of his friend to canvas.

the blue period

A year after the two friends had come to Paris, Picasso was painting cathartic pictures of his friend in a coffin. This experience triggered a transition in Picasso’s artistic development that was so significant it came to be known as the Blue Period.


In The Old Guitarist, Picasso harmonized the variations between tonal values. Clearer tones cover the higher part of the painting, while deep, dark tones define the low end.


Unlike in the high frequency of some of his later works, in The Old Guitarist Picasso is much more subdued. The simple alignment of the elements is what gives this painting its slow sense of movement.


The Picasso guitar painting blends many of the devices he had used in the Blue Period. This painting and other images in this body of work are iconic simply for their blue-dark tones.


The bony old man cradles his guitar in a way that makes it seem sacred. Clearly, the man depends on it as a means of survival. The old man is literally and figuratively leaning on the guitar. It is his only hope.


Looking at the painting from another angle, it is clearer to see that the old man’s eyes are closed and his mouth is open. These features, particularly in The Old Guitarist connote a languid expression of suffering.