Pablo Picasso: Blue Period


Pablo Picasso was born in Spain in a place called Malaga in the year 1881. At the age of 15, he already had acquired technical skills in the field of painting and drawing. He had a novel style that constantly underwent advancement all through his artist career in his attempts on expanding the real definition of what art work could mean. Other than drawing and painting, he also had a chance to carry out an exploration in other fields of art such as ceramics, sculpture among other fields and became one of the artists with much influence of the twentieth century.

Pablo’s period of blue paintings, depicted depressed general public painted in blue, demonstrating the feeling of unhappiness and isolation. Pablo’s painting i.e.(‘Rose period’) took a new face once he moved to Paris in his early days in life, the paintings mood became ‘warmer and more optimistic’. Later in time, in the year 1907 Picasso together with George Brasque who was a French man became pioneers of Cubism ( Chew, Robin Para. 2).

According to Warncke (n.d), Picasso’s Blue Period (1901 -1904) refers to Pablo’s paintings where the blue color became dominant thus the name blue period. The Blue Period plays a major role in the process of changing of style to abstract art from classism. Being one of the pioneers of the advanced abstract art, Pablo is normally associated with cubism as well as other close styles that are known to be abstract. Therefore, it is quite vital to come to a realization that during the blue period, the present abstract art did not exist.

At the age of twenty, Pablo Picasso was already a classist painter who was accomplished. However, just like the majority of young artists, he was not satisfied with the traditional art dogmas. Those who came before him like the impressionists had tried to show how moving from classism could bring about a visual language that was more direct. Thus, Pablo alongside his colleagues, were feeling the after effects that were as a consequence of the ‘Vincent Van Gogh’ artistic flare-up and which became a known as Vincent Van Gogh that became a stumbling block to the stunned world of art i.e. to abstract art and also to the century that followed.

The suspicion about classism is the tradition that inspires the marking of the end of a development by the blue period in which Picasso is attempting to come up with pictorial means which clears the shortcomings of classism and would in turn result in to cubism and the initial moves to modern abstract art. Pablo’s Blue period is best associated with acquiescence and melancholy. These emotions result from the death of his close friend by the name Carlos Casagemas who committed suicide. Pablo illustrates his distress in a sequence of paintings that are quite gushy and which comprise the blue period.

At the time Picasso made his first trip to Paris, he was in company of his friend who was very close, Carlos Casagemas, and was a fellow artist. At this time Pablo Picasso was a teenager and it was his first time, going away from home to stay. Unfortunately, he went to stay in very poor conditions. His stay was interrupted when he came to an agreement with his friend, Casagemas, to take him home for Christmas in order for the friend to recover from a romantic affair that had gone sour. Picasso decided to leave for Madrid when his family was not pleased with his wild appearance thus leaving behind his friend, Carlos Casagemas who in turn decided to go back to Paris where he shot himself.

The death of Casagemas instilled rage, guilt and sorrow in Pablo Picasso. He went back to Paris in order to take over his dead friend’s studio. He started producing works painted in blues and grays. He used these colors because they portray a somber mood. The objects he painted showed loneliness, unhappiness and a state of being needy. The objects were of beggars, blind figures, outcasts, alcoholics, the disabled, and prostitutes to show human misery. The picture gotten from this works was a display of feeling of darkness that were strong, pessimism and suffering which is a reflection of the suffering Picasso himself went through and the poor living conditions he himself stayed in.

The Blue Period characteristic can be well shown in the painting “The old guitarist” produced by Picasso whose theme can be captured in varied ways depending on the views of an individual who looks at it. This work of art is an example of a silent painting. This painting is opposed to other pieces of painting that tends to shout or scream and grab the attention of people.

When this painting is first seen, the observer’s senses are overcome by dramatic blues with a feeling of despair. The blue color is always associated (by people) with a feeling of sadness. The guitarist in the painting is seen playing his guitar like this was his last hope. Seeing this man, the immediate idea that comes on one’s mind is that the man is a beggar with clothes that are torn. The sympathy stretches further on realizing the man has no shoes in his feet.

The man in the painting, “the Old Guitarist” is still holding on to his love for the guitar not caring about the ruin on his health and finances. Probably, Picasso portrayed the man in such a way in order to foretell the human destination which is death. The only hope the man is still holding on to is his guitar. This is indicated by the painter of the picture not painting the guitar in blue. By not painting the guitar in blue and painting it in brown might probably mean or symbolize the talents that are often ignored and never noticed by people.

At the time of the blue period, most of Picasso’s paintings were made by the blue color due to the depression he had at the time. The basic issue here is to question ourselves what Picasso is thinking of. He might be thinking of the unavoidable miseries and misfortunes a human being must face at a future date in time. The importance and the meaning of the painting may be in the guitar, which is not painted blue but brown. Many of the observers of this painting may focus much on the sad blue and divert their attention from the guitar. Human beings should not resemble the painting in which the guitar symbolizes gift and talent which is not noticed since it has been overshadowed by the external interferences. Violent colors like blue might be interpreted as symbolizing anger and depression but it might never be known because, just like the guitarist, other thoughts might cloud it.

The development of Picasso’s artistic skills resulted from his great interest in art and this was complemented by his studying of art. He seriously studied art in Madrid and Barcelona though at that time he was already a skilled artist. The acquisition of the art skills can as well be attributed to his being brought up by a father who was an artist. His father was a Spanish painter and art teacher (Chew para.2).

At some point in the early twentieth century, Picasso toured Paris and was attracted by the region a thing that made him to settle there. While in paris Picasso joined the artistic community from the region who included Gertrude Stein (A writer with an American origin) who was very instrumental and played a bigger role in the letters and the experimental arts in Europe that occurred in the early 1900s. Despite the control of the already established European as well as other artists, Pablo came out very strong. He was resourceful and productive, a thing that gained him huge repute world over as an innovator of the time. Together with, Henri Matisse, Picasso is regarded as one of the great 20th century artists (Thomas para.2).

Pablo Picasso’s Paintings

Evocation, burial Casagemas

Evocation, burial Casagemas

  • Type: JPEG image
  • Image Dimension: 281px × 465px
  • Size of file: 54.63 KB (55944 bytes)
  • Alternate Text: Evocation, the burial of Casagemas
  • Oil on canvas painting

Carlos Casagemas, Pablo Picasso’s close friend, shot himself after being rejected by a girl whom he adored the most. At that time, he was in a Parisian café accompanied by his friends. During that time, his friend, Pablo Picasso was away in Spain. The receiving of the news of his friend’s death came as a big shock to Picasso and this instilled in him so much grieve (Harris para.5). This shock resulting from the committing suicide by a friend marked the beginning of the blue period. This is the time when Picasso started painting using the blue color.

In Pablo Picasso’s paintings, it is often hard to distinguish between subconscious and conscious symbolism. Intentional symbolism is an element that is possibly indicated by the crucified rider towards the top of the painting. Clear observation will reveal to one that actually the rider is tied and bearing a cross. Probably, the rider who is crucified is a symbol that represents the soul of the dead person.

In the painting, otherwise referred to as “Evocation, burial Casagemas” there have been several interpretations of the women who are scarcely dressed. One group of people believe that the death of Picasso’s friend made him not to believe in the legitimacy of the reckless lifestyle of the art community of Montmartre although he would still stay in the state of sexual-free thinker till he died. Possibly, the women in the painting were meant to bring about consolation, bearing in mind the rejection Casagemas had faced that resulted in his death. In that interpretation, the women together with the children at the central point of the painting might represent the happiness expected in the family life that Casagemas never lived to experience. (Marten para.8).

In this painting the blue and green color has been used mainly. The composition and style in this painting has been highly influenced by the painting done by an artist by the name El Greco. The painting is called” The Burial of Count orgaz” (Charles Moffat Para 8). The paint in oil has been used on canvas.

Self-portrait painting

Self-portrait painting

  • Image size: 81 – 60 cm
  • Medium: OIL on canvas
  • Year 1901

Pablo Picasso went to Paris In France just before he attained the age 20 years and his start of life in France was very tough. On his own without enough money, the young genius roamed the streets of the city of Paris. Hopeless people including alcoholics, prostitutes among other people who were wandering started to represent the world in which he was living with a style that was unique of pale figures dipped in a melancholic word of blue tones. This is the starting point of the Blue period of the artist.

The self-portrait in the painting above is not the first that Pablo Picasso painted but is among the first ones that he painted at the start of the Blue Period. This portrait was painted a short while just after his friend Casagemas committed suicide and at this time Picasso was still new in the big city of France, Paris ( para.2). The calmness and peace portrayed in the picture, the quality of the work, and the confident appearance seen indicates the image of a courageous and determined artist who could not be swayed by any difficulty he can encounter in the process of pursuing his goal.

This painting is mostly dominated by the blue color indicating a somber mood. The painting has been done in Vincent Van Gogh style (Anonymous Para 1). The blue color in oil has been used on canvas.

“Casagemas Death” Painting

Casagemas Death

  • Painting Title: Death of Casagemas 1901
  • Artist: Pablo Picasso – A famous Spanish artist, 20th Century Painter
  • Medium: Oil on wood.
  • Size: 105.25 KB (107779 bytes)
  • Image Dimensions: 470px × 360px

This painting is among those ones that Picasso produced at the start of the blue period. It shows the head of his best friend’s head, Casagemas who had killed himself by releasing a bullet in the head. The bullet wound is shown in the painting. Picasso expressed his sorrow over his friend’s death at the time of the blue period by using only shades of blue and like in the process of painting A sorrowful tone were lent to the painting by these colors during this period alongside the subject matter which indicated sorrowful subjects mainly.

This painting shows Casagemas Carlos in his deathbed. This is a heartfelt portrait of a friend who takes away his own life after a lover rejecting him. The complementary colors in the painting together with the thick brushstrokes reminisce Vincent van Gogh.

More so, Picasso’s painting was quite in line with the current preoccupation of the artists at that time. Early death, suicide and despair were subjects that were most discussed in the circles of art and were dealt with frequently in Barcelona. The intended dimension that is implied in the title is doubtful since the title was not given by the painter himself. The underlying issue behind the coming up with this painting by Picasso is that this is a way Picasso is trying to testify his shock over the friend’s suicide. Basing on the sense that Picasso is trying to handle his trauma, this painting is of the blue period but interestingly, it does not bear the atmosphere that portrays resignation and cool mourning that the blue paintings could carry.

Apart from the Blue period’s sad characteristics, there are signs of the influence of impressionist in the painting. This is seen in the way we see the individual brush strokes and the ways that a portion is not clear unless viewed as a portion of the whole. This can be best illustrated by the candle in the upper part of the painting in the right corner. More so, the style used here is using paint in oil and applying it on the cardboard together black charcoal that is used to paint the head of Casagemas in his coffin. Pablo Picasso’s blue period would go on till 1904 when he painted La Vie, a final show of Casagemas with a lover and then the Rose period would follow.


The mood that dominates the Blue period is the loneliness of the social outsiders: beggars, poor people or people in despair in general. This theme did not only respond to the blue mood it also gave a solution to the time’s spirit in the world of art at the starting of the twentieth century.

Quite a number of people believe that human beings, the way they were designed, identify emotions with colors. Melancholy matches with the blue color. To Pablo, the blue period became a practice. He came out with scenes where his paintings were dominated by the low light conditions. Basically, the reason why the starving artist myth turning out to be very popular is that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the artists together with the intellectuals liked to see themselves as such. According to them, an artist was a social outsider by definition and would indulge in cultivated depression and romanticize their own supposed martyrdom (Warncke: n.d).

During the Blue period, Pablo Picasso was experiencing a very rough time in his young life and these lent very great emotions to his work. This is why his paintings are overshadowed with melancholy and sadness brought out by the blue color. The blue period is a very significant era in the history of art since at this point; Picasso was bringing about a transition from the classic art he acquired from school to the form of art he would eventually create; cubism and abstract art.

It can be concluded that, the Blue period, to a great extent, came about from the influence of the death of Picasso’s friend, Carlos Casagemas. At this time he portrayed the poor Parisian world by producing paintings of prostitutes, beggars among others in the blue and blue-green color.

Pablo Picasso’s work of art is so large that it stretches over a long period of time that experts, in the field of art, generally divide his career into different separate phases. These phases include, the Blue period (1901 – 1904), the Rose period (1905 -1907), and his most renown Modern art contribution, cubism (1908 – 1919) – a twentieth century avant-garde art movement pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Brasque, that revolutionized European painting and sculpture and inspired related movements in Music and literature (Cooper 19). Contrary to his predecessors, Pablo Picasso was a celebrity known the world over and a significant contributor to the art world as well.

In spite of Pablo Picasso associating with Modern abstract art of the twentieth century and cubism, he was still a nineteenth century creature (ENCYCLOPEDIA OF IRISH AND WORLD ART para.5). It is argued that his reasoning and his art results from the nineteenth century Expressionism and Romantism –a cultural style which started towards the end of the 18th century. This was a period at which the Enlightenment dominated. Enlightenment was a value-system that emanated from advancement in science and put much belief in rationalization and reason. This approach was reacted against by the romanticists.

Pablo Picasso is the most significant figure in the field of art of the Modern era though much of his era still brings in controversy. Several people who have written about him try to leave out one or another of his big composition, to focus on some central part but which seems to be destined to stay indescribable.

Considering the last part of Pablo Picasso’s life, it can be said that he enjoyed an unusual active old age full of creativity. His last big exhibition in his lifetime was held in 1970 in Avignon. It comprised of large piece of new work having a brutal style and headlong and the public was alarmed by it and the reviewers were alienated. Up to just in the recent times has these works come to be considered as Neo-Expressionism precursors which have been dominant in the early 1980s. More than 300 prints series released in the space of seven months during the year 1968 was received in a better way, although what they conveyed was harsh; they mocked the youths’ illusions and in the same way were harsh on their condemning of the old age impotence. The open eroticism made some happy but others felt offended, but at this point Picasso had moved a long way as not to care anymore about what any person could think of him. He died in 1973, and his death and departing from this world brought a whole era to an end. However, Picasso’s drawings, paintings, ceramics, and sculpture can still be found in the best museums of art all over the world.

Works Cited

Anonymous, Picasso, self portrait. Not dated. 2009. Web.

Charles Moffat. PABLO PICASSO, the Art History Archive – Biography & Artworks. Not dated. 2009. Web.

Chew. Robin. Pablo Picasso artist, 1995. Web.

Cooper, D. The Cubist Epoch, New York: Phaidon Press Limited, 1970


Harris, M. The Burial of Casagemas (Evocation), 1901. 2009. Web.

Marten, Jansen. Evocation, the burial of Casagemas. 1997-2009. Web.

Michael R. Taylor, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 114 -165. Web. PABLO PICASSO: “Self-portrait”, 1901-2009. Online magazine. Web.

Thomas, Hoving. Pablo Picasso.2009. Web.

Warncke. C.P. Pablo Picasso: 1881 -1973. Ingo F. Walther; Softcover, Taschen America Llc.