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Old guitar player

Painting, 1904, 123×83 cm

Description of the artwork «Old guitar player»

In 1898, Picasso said goodbye to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, which finally bored him and returned from Madrid to Barcelona. That's where the real life was! Creative freedom, the first solo exhibitions in the famous Four Cats cafe and like-minded friends, with whom one could both discuss art and go on a spree on brothels. The closest of them was the age of Picasso, an artist Carlos Casagemas. They were almost inseparable, and Pablo did his best to support a friend who suffered from unrequited love. But it all ended tragically: Carlos tried to shoot a girl who did not reciprocate, after which he committed suicide.

After this sad event in the work of Picasso begins the “blue period” permeated with longing. The artist blamed himself for the death of a friend until the end of his days and believed that he could prevent the suicide of Casagemas. In 1901, he writes several paintings in a row, depicting Carlos in a coffin (1, 2), but art historians findheroes of later paintings by Picasso have similar facial features. Be that as it may, the death of a friend influenced the artist so much that he was saved only by work, splashing depression and despair on the canvas. Almost all paintings of the “blue period” bear this invisible imprint of death. Picasso’s picture was no exception."The old guitarist".

At the first glance at this work, the impression is made that the blind musician was captured at the moment when he quietly gave up his spirit before he could finish the song to the end. It looks like a ghost, almost merging with the background, its unnaturally bent figure is broken either by the agony of death, or by the agony of longing. The gloomy color scheme only enhances this effect. Only the guitar seems alive on this canvas: the viewer can almost hear the piercing, turning the soul inside out chords. It is noteworthy that behind the "Old Guitarist" a ghostly female face appears under a layer of paint. At that time, Picasso could not always find money for a new canvas, so he was forced to paint one painting on top of another.

In 1937, the American poet Wallace Stevens wrote the poem "The Man with the Blue Guitar", which is considered a dedication to the "Old Guitarist". In a poetic dialogue between the musician and his listeners, Wallace encapsulates Picasso’s conviction that art is a lie that helps us see the truth.

Author: Evgenia Sidelnikova
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About the artwork

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Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Post-Impressionism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Wood

Date of creation: 1904

Size: 123×83 cm

Artwork in selections: 51 selections

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