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 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.
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.
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.