Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist” and the Beautiful Lie of Art

Picasso - The Old Guitarist - 1903

“We all know that Art is not truth.  Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” – Pablo Picasso

With this quote, Picasso captures the plight of an artist.  No matter how hard we try, we do not have the ability to change reality.  This ability lies solely in the hands of God.  As we create art, our best attempts are mere illusions, or shadows, of reality.

Really good art, however, will create beautiful illusions which guide us in understanding the truths of reality in a whole new way.

Take The Old Guitarist, for example, painted by Pablo Picasso in 1903 (shortly after his close friend committed suicide).  This is a beautiful work which shows us what Picasso did best – present an alternate reality that is even more real than the world we see with our natural eyes.

Deeper than Reality

Picasso could have made his paintings look more realistic – more like everyday life.  But instead, he altered the colors and shapes of his subjects to reveal inner truths.

In The Old Guitarist, nearly the entire scene is washed in shades of blue.  This reveals the despair and hopelessness faced by many who live in poverty.  The one bright spot of color is the old man’s guitar, a symbol of music and art – the beautiful “lies” which give the man solace and allow his voice to be heard.

The unnatural angles of this blind man’s body show the way he is weighed down by the cares of this life.  It is as if Picasso is allowing us to see the world through the eyes of a blind man, and spend a few moments in his shoes.

If you walk away from this painting unchanged, then perhaps it is not The Old Guitarist who is truly blind.

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Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist” will be on display at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas through February 16, 2014.

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