Painting Sorrow

Somber hues for somber times. Pablo Picasso´s blue period paintings are not merely melancholy but profoundly depressed. Filled with hollow-eyed, desperate people, these paintings tell the story of the artist´s illness, long before antidepressants.

picasso-1903-the-roofs-of-barcelona
The Roofs of Barcelona, 1903.
Somber hues for somber times. Pablo Picasso´s blue period paintings are not merely melancholy but profoundly depressed. Filled with hollow-eyed, desperate people, these paintings tell the story of the artist´s illness, long before antidepressants.

Around the turn of the century, a severe, long-lasting depression started creeping up on the famous painter. The man who had always been socially outgoing, optimistic and full of life withdrew more and more from his friends. It is believed that what set Pablo Picasso´ s depression off was the tragic suicide of his friend, Carlos Casagemas. 

1903-life-the-cleveland-museum-of-art-cleveland
La Vie, 1903.

During 1901 Picasso´s psychological state got worse and worse. He kept working, and was actually very productive, but his paintings turned as blue as he was feeling. Pablo Picasso dedicated 1901 to 1904 to monochromatic paintings in shades of blue and blue-green. The works he produced during this time were later defined as The Blue Period.

Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.

Pablo Picasso

The subjects of the paintings are often the outcasts of society. The poor and the old and frail. Solitary figures, blind men, beggars and prostitutes. Pablo Picasso seems obsessed with the blind and crippled, but there are also families, mothers with small children. Today the Blue Period paintings are among Picasso´s most popular work but when he painted them, the public turned their back on him, and he had a hard time selling his work. His finances, as a result, suffered along with his state of mind.

picasso-1903-old-blind-man-with-boy-pushkin-museum-of-fine-art-moscow
Old Blind Man With Boy, 1903.
picasso-1902-the-visit-hermitage-st-petersburg
The Visit, 1902.
picasso-1903-the-tragedy-national-gallery-of-art-washingon
The Tragedy, 1903.

A good picture, any picture, has to be bristling with razor blades.

Pablo Picasso
picasso-1903-breakfast-of-a-blind-man-metropolitan-museum-of-art-new-york
Breakfast of a Blind Man, 1903.
picasso-1902-two-women-sitting-at-a-bar-royal-academy-of-arts-london
Two Women Sitting at a Bar, 1902.
picasso-1903-the-absinthe-drinker-portrait-of-angel-fernandez-de-soto
The Absinthe Drinker, 1903.
picasso-1902-woman-in-blue
Woman in Blue, 1902.
picasso-1903-the-old-blind-guitarist-art-institute-of-chicago
Old Blind Guitarist, 1903.
picasso-1904-the-ironer
The Ironer, 1904.
picasso-1904-celestina
Celestina, 1904.