Picasso's Blues




The Tragedy Pablo Picasso Date: 1903 Style: Fauvism Media: Oil, wood Dimensions: 105.3 x 63 cm Location: The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, USA

(Currently not on view)


There are artists who go through periods in which their styles have minor or drastic changes and Pablo Picasso, is one artist who let his emotions take him down a path that could be reflected in his work. In a way, seeing his art is kind of like sneaking into his room and skimming through his personal journal in just enough time before he could catch you in the act.

Personally, when I look through Picasso's work, I feel like I'm witnessing history in such a refreshing way. His art can tell you what is happening during the time period in which it was produced and for me, that's one of the reasons why I think he's one of the most interesting painters to have existed. And to be able to get a glimpse of his emotional downfalls in some of his pieces is just so vulnerable that it's beautiful and fascinating.


The piece you see above was produced during Picasso's Blue Period (1901-1904), during this period, he painted monochromatic paintings in shades of blue and blue-green. Other examples are shown below.




When I look at these paintings, my heart fills with sadness and sorrow because the individuals in each piece seem as though they are suffering. They seem desperate for something, desperate to be any other color but blue. Picasso's use of hue for his paintings, adds depth and dare I say it, the darkening and intensifying of multiple emotions.


And to know that Picasso fell into his Blue Period after the loss of a close friend, Carlos Casegemas, one can look at these paintings and feel as though they're getting to know just how vulnerable Picasso can be. Yet, there are other factors that contributed to his Blue Period. Inspired by the people that he came across while living in Spain, he painted beggers, sex-workers, the homeless, and the sick. The themes of his art during his depression focused on loneliness, despair, and poverty- one question that I often think about is, did Picasso feel as though the people he painted could relate to him, or did he think that he could relate to them?


In The Tragedy, we see three figures, a man, a woman, and a young boy and although there is no direct indication that this may be a family, it is often assumed that they are. They are standing along a beachfront, and all seem to be concentrated on their own thoughts. One interesting thing to remember when looking at this painting is its title. With a word such as tragedy, viewers may try to notice some sort of causality in the background among this family, but it's rather empty and calm. So instead of looking at the background, we are drawn to the people, and we can presume that Picasso may want us to refer to the concept of human experience. What tragedy can each person in this painting be going through? What tragedy can they be going through as a family unit?


We see the two older figures, with their heads bowed down, their gazes do not meet but are pointed towards the ground in front of them. Both seem to have their arms crossed over their chests. The woman is wearing a long shawl thrown over her body, it could be possible that it is cold and both figures are trying to keep themselves warm but this adds to the painting. Their postures illustrate more distance between them, not just physically but emotionally; we see the child's hand gently touching the man's leg, while the other hand is held out, yet he is not acknowledged by either man or woman.


The child is too young to understand what may be occurring with his elders, we resonate with him. Viewers may feel as though they are the child, we are being ignored by the two older figures, we don't understand what is happening, we are desperately seeking attention but feel saddened when we realize that we are nonexistent during this time. The sense of dread materializes in this painting, these individuals are suffering and the viewers empathize with them.



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