Pablo Picasso was an artist who felt a connection with those struggling in society, in a similar way to artist Van Gogh, whose early works included The Potato Eaters.

The Old Guitarist is one of a number of Picasso portraits which aim to draw attention to the plight of the poor, the ill and others struggling in the society of the day.

This particular artwork captures an elderly blind man leaning over his guitar. His poverty is underlined by his worn clothing and how he is playing in the streets of Barcelona, Spain to provide money for food.

The painting was created in Madrid in 1903. It was around that time that Picasso’s close friend, Casagemas killed himself and this incident was to leave its mark on a young Pablo


The Old Guitarist is a significant contribution to his Blue Period, a spell of several years where his work was mainly themed with melancholic tones of blue.

As Van Gogh had moved to France and begun to experiment with colour in the bright southern countryside, Picasso would also move on from his own sombre period several decades later.

This particular painting came in the very early 20th century and it was around this time that Pablo himself had been struggling financially. This strengthened his understanding of the problems being suffered by others.

Artist El Greco is known to have been an influence on some of the earlier work of Picaso, and that is evident here, with the twisted torso used in this portrait.

Recent research have uncovered several un-finished paintings below the Old Guitarist, and elements of them can be seen with the naked eye in areas of the background.

The habit of re-using canvases is common for artists and there have frequently been new works found to be lurking underneath other completed paintings, across most art movements.

It is possible that one of the portraits covered by the final artwork was one of Picasso's many Weeping Woman portraits, although that has never been confirmed.

Music appears in this painting to distract the blind man from his disability and poverty, with his guitar taking a large literal and symbolic role in the artwork's composition.

There is a solemn look to the guitarist as he slouches over his musical instrument. This suggests significant problems in his life, as he struggles to make ends meet.

There is also an elongation of form in order to accentuate the symbolism used by artist Picasso. This technique was common in the work of Greek painter, El Greco, of whom Pablo was very much acquainted.

The composition and colour scheme aim to isolate the figure, further underlining his loneliness and vulnerability in the world. Picasso aimed to draw attention not to this specific individual, but the problems of poverty more generally.

This artwork uses colour to signify the importance of the old man's guitar - it is his lifeblood and only true hope for survival at this point. The browns of this guitar stand out against the rest of the canvas which is relatively subdued.

Some have argued that the old man is purely a representation of the artist himself, essentially living a solitary life due to the implications of being an artist. It also points to his reliance on society to keep him afloat.

There have also been some discussion as to whether the composition and style of this artwork was inspired by George Frederic Watts's painting of Hope in 1886. The similarities are clear, but it is unknown as to whether Picasso was ever actually exposed to this painting.