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The Blind Man's Meal

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, Malaga 1881–1973 Mougins, France )

Oil on canvas
37 1/2 x 37 1/4in. (95.3 x 94.6cm) 47 1/2 x 47 3/8 x 2 3/4 in. (120.7 x 120.3 x 7 cm) (Frame)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Ira Haupt Gift, 1950
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • Description

    This striking painting is one of Picasso's most moving pictures from his Blue Period, so named for the blue coloration that permeated his work at the time (autumn 1901-mid-1904). Frequently he depicted solitary figures set against almost empty backgrounds, the blue palette imparting a mood of melancholy and desolation to images that suggest unhappiness and dejection, poverty, despondency, and despair. Most prevalent among his subjects were the old, the destitute, the blind, the homeless, and the otherwise underprivileged outcasts of society.

    The Blind Man's Meal, painted in Barcelona in the autumn of 1903, summarizes the stylistic characteristics of Picasso's Blue Period: rigorous drawing, simple hieratic compositions and forms, and of course, a blue tonality. The composition presents a forlorn figure seated at a frugal repast. In a letter, preserved in the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Picasso gives a very precise description of the composition: "I am painting a blind man at the table. He holds some bread in his left hand and gropes with his right hand for a jug of wine." An empty bowl and a white napkin complete the still life on the table. The man's slightly contorted figure, long thin El Greco-like hands, unadorned surroundings, and his blindness make his disenfranchised condition all the more poignant. The highlights on his face and neck, hands, bread, and napkin put the figure in relief against the austere background.

    The painting is not merely a portrait of a blind man; it is also Picasso's commentary on human suffering in general. The meager meal of bread and wine invites references to the figure of Christ and the principal dogma of Catholic faith, whereby bread and wine represent Christ's body and blood, sacramental associations that Picasso as a Spaniard would have known. Additionally, the work elicits affinities to Picasso's own situation at the time, when, impoverished and depressed, he closely identified with the unfortunates of society.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Signature: Signed in blue, upper right: Picasso

  • Provenance

    [Galerie Vollard, Paris, by 1906/7–1912, stock no. 5456; probably purchased from the artist; sold on December 11, 1912, for 3,000 francs and shipped on January 10, 1913, to Moderne Galerie]; [Moderne Galerie (Heinrich Thannhauser), Munich, 1912–13, stock no. 3272; sold in February 1913 to Koenig]; Hertha Koenig and her brother, Helge Siegfried Koenig, Munich (1913–50; consigned by November 16, 1949, until November 1950 to Justin K. Thannhauser, New York; sold in November 1950, through Thannhauser, for $38,500 to MMA [purchased with funds given by Mr. and Mrs. Ira Haupt])

  • Exhibition History

    Munich. Moderne Galerie (Heinrich Thannhauser). "Ausstellung Pablo Picasso," February 1913, no. 10.

    Buenos Aires. Galeria Müller. "Exposición Pablo Ruiz Picasso," October 1934, no. 3.

    Hempstead, N. Y. Hofstra College. "Metropolitan Museum Masterpieces," June 26–September 1, 1952, no catalogue (checklist no. 29).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paintings from Private Collections, Summer Loan Exhibition," June 19–October 1, 1956, no catalogue.

    Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Picasso: 75th Anniversary Exhibition," May 4–September 8, 1957, unnumbered cat. (p. 19).

    Art Institute of Chicago. "Picasso: 75th Anniversary Exhibition," October 29–December 8, 1957, unnumbered cat.

    Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Picasso: A Loan Exhibition of His Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints and Illustrated Books," January 8–February 23, 1958, no. 12.

    London. Tate Gallery. "Pablo Picasso," July 6–September 18, 1960, no. 18.

    Knoedler and Co., New York. "Picasso, an American Tribute: Benefit Exhibition for the Public Education Association," April 25–May 12, 1962, no. 13.

    Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective," May 22–September 16, 1980, unnumbered cat. (p. 53 and checklist p. 7).

    Melbourne. National Gallery of Victoria. "Picasso: Works from the Marina Picasso Collection in Collaboration with Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva, with Loans from Museums in Europe and the United States of America and Private Collections," July 29–September 23, 1984, unnumbered cat. (pl. 14).

    Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales. "Picasso: Works from the Marina Picasso Collection in Collaboration with Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva, with Loans from Museums in Europe and the United States of America and Private Collections," October 10–December 2, 1984, unnumbered cat.

    London. Hayward Gallery. "Homage to Barcelona: The City and Its Art, 1888–1936," November 14, 1985–February 23, 1986, no. 183.

    Cleveland Museum of Art. "Picasso & Things: The Still Lifes of Picasso," February 26–May 3, 1992, unnumbered cat. (p. 41).

    Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Picasso & Things: The Still Lifes of Picasso," June 7–August 23, 1992, unnumbered cat.

    Grand Palais, Paris. "Picasso & Things: The Still Lifes of Picasso," September 22–December 28, 1992, unnumbered cat.

    National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "Picasso: The Early Years, 1892–1906," March 30–July 27, 1997, no. 94.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Picasso: The Early Years, 1892–1906," September 10, 1997–January 4, 1998, no. 94.

    Paris. Musée Picasso. "Paris 1901–1909: Chefs d'oeuvre du Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," October 21, 1998–January 25, 1999, unnumbered cat. (fig. 29).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painters in Paris: 1895 1950," March 8–December 31, 2000, extended to January 14, 2001, unnumbered cat. (p. 17).

    Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. "Picasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," September 14–November 24, 2002, unnumbered cat. (p. 39).

    Tokyo. Bunkamura Museum of Art. "Picasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," December 7, 2002–March 9, 2003, unnumbered cat.

    Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant Garde," June 11–September 16, 2007, no. 147.

    Cleveland. Cleveland Museum of Art. "Barcelona and Modernity: Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí," October 15, 2006–January 7, 2007, no. 4:16.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Barcelona and Modernity: Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí," March 6–June 3, 2007, no. 4:16.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 27–August 1, 2010, no. 22.

  • References

    "Kunst: Moderne Galerie (München, Theatinerstrasse)." F.W, no. 40 (February 18, 1913), p. 11.[Maximilian] K. Rohe. "Pablo Picasso." Die Kunst für Alle 28 (1913), p. 382.

    Christian Zervos. Pablo Picasso. Vol. 1,Works from 1895 to 1906. Paris, 1932, pp. xxiv, 78, no. 168, ill.

    Christian Zervos et al. "Picasso (special issue coinciding with exhibition Paris 1932)." Cahiers d'art 7, nos. 3 5 (1932), unpaginated, ill.

    Alexandre Cirici Pellicer. Picasso antes de Picasso. Barcelona, 1946, pp. 151, 154, 158–59, pl. 129.

    William S. Lieberman. Pablo Picasso: Blue and Rose Periods. New York, 1954, pl. 19.

    Robert M. Coates. "The Art Galleries: Picasso." New Yorker (June 8, 1957), p. 127.

    "Picasso: Protean Genius of Modern Art." Time (May 27, 1957), pp. 80–81, ill.

    Antonina Vallentin. Pablo Picasso. Paris, 1957, pp. 87–88.

    Phoebe Pool. "The Picasso Exhibition: The Most Important Four Rooms." Burlington Magazine 102 (September 1960), p. 387.

    Anthony Blunt and Phoebe Pool. Picasso, the Formative Years: A Study of His Sources. London, 1962, p. 21.

    Josep Palau i Fabre. Picasso en Cataluña. Barcelona, 1966, pp. 102, 242, pl. 9.

    Pierre Daix and Georges Boudaille. Picasso: The Blue and Rose Periods: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, 1900–1906. Greenwich, Conn., 1967, pp. 58, 62, 229, no. IX.32, ill.

    Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, pp. 230–31, ill.

    Paolo Lecaldano. L'opera completa di Picasso blu e rosa. Milan, 1968, pp. 94–95, no. 94, pl. 16, ill.

    Georges Boudaille. Picasso: Première époque, 1881–1906: Périodes bleue et rose. Paris, 1969, p. 14.

    William Rubin, ed. Picasso in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, including Remainder Interest and Promised Gifts. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 1972, p. 190, fig. 5.

    Roland Penrose. Picasso: His Life and His Work. rev. ed. (first edition 1958). New York, 1973, p. 91, pl. II, 8.

    Roland Penrose and John Golding, eds. Picasso in Retrospect. New York, 1973, pp. 26, 33–34, 175–76, 274, 279, fig. 296, pl. 33.

    Donald E. Gordon. Modern Art Exhibitions, 1900–1916: Selected Catalogue Documentation. Munich,, 1974, p. 663, (Munich 1913, no. 10).

    Ronald Johnson. The Early Sculpture of Picasso, 1901–1914. PhD. diss., University of California, Berkeley. New York, 1976, pp. 19–20, 199, fig. 21.

    Ronald Christ. "Picasso's Hands: The Mutability of Human Form." ArtsCanada, no. 236–37 (September–October 1980), pp. 21–22, ill.

    Josep Palau i Fabre. Picasso: The Early Years, 1881–1907. New York, 1981, pp. 352, 354–55, 358, 542, no. 920, ill.

    Roland Penrose. Picasso: His Life and His Work. 3rd ed. Berkeley, 1981, pp. 88–89, pl. II.8.

    Christine Piot. "Décrire Picasso." PhD. diss., Universite de Paris Pantheon Sorbonne, October 1981, p. 61.

    Kay Larson. "The Met Goes Modern." New York Magazine 19 (December 15, 1986), pp. 40–41, 48, ill.

    Elyse Topalian. "Modern Art in the Met." Apollo 124 (October 1986), p. 363, pl. 18.

    Pierre Daix. Picasso créateur: La Vie intime et l'oeuvre. Paris, 1987, p. 48.

    Gary Tinterow et al. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 8, Modern Europe. New York, 1987, pp. 112–13, colorpl. 89.

    Laszlo Glozer. Picasso: Les Chefs–d'oeuvre de la Pèriode bleue, 38 tableaux. Munich, 1988, p. 16, pl. 32.

    Patricia Leighten. Re Ordering the Universe : Picasso and Anarchism, 1897 1914. Princeton, 1989, p. x, fig. 20.

    Denys Chevalier. Picasso: The Blue and Rose Periods. New York, 1991, pp. 38, 51, ill.

    John Richardson with the collaboration of Marilyn McCully. A Life of Picasso. Vol. 1, 1881–1906. New York, 1991, pp. 277–79, ill.

    Hertha Koenig. Erinnerungen an Rainer Maria Rilke sowie Rilkes Mutter. Ed. Joachim W. Storck. Bielefeld, 1992, pp. 22, 25, 104 n. 3.

    Núria Rivero Teresa Llorens and Pierre Daix in Picasso, 1905–1906: From the Rose Period to the Ochres of Gósol. Exh. cat., Museu Picasso. Barcelona, 1992, p. 126.

    Carsten Peter Warncke. Pablo Picasso, 1881–1973. Vol. 1,The Works 1890–1936. Ed. Ingo F. Walther. Cologne, 1992, pp. 92, 103, ill.

    Christian Geelhaar. Picasso: Wegbereiter und Förderer seines Aufstiegs, 1899–1939. Zurich, 1993, pp. 57, 73, 77, 83, 270 n.19, 278 n. 264, fig. 63.

    Hélène Seckel and Jeffrey Weiss. "Picasso." Great French Paintings from the Barnes Foundation: Impressionist, Post impressionist, and Early Modern. New York, 1993, p. 192, fig 1.

    Pierre Daix. Dictionnaire Picasso. Paris, 1995, pp. 59, 215, 470, 547, 553, 686, 698, 782–83, 895.

    Norman Mailer. Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man: An Interpretive Biography. New York, 1995, p. 86, ill.

    Octavi Marti. "Paris exhibe los inquietos Picassos de la juventud viajera del pintor." El País (November 2, 1998), p. 39.

    Brigitte Léal et al. The Ultimate Picasso. New York, 2000, pp. 60, 63, 503, fig. 116.

    Meyer Schapiro. The Unity of Picasso's Art. New York, 2000, pp. 1, 186, fig. 1.

    Matthew Drutt, ed. The Thannhauser Collection of the Guggenheim Museum. New York, 2001, p. 9, ill.

    Elizabeth Cowling. Picasso: Style and Meaning. London, 2002, pp. 105–7, fig. 82.

    Francisco Gonzáles López. La vejez y la enfermedad en el arte. Caldas, 2004, p. 77.

    Heinz Holtmann et al. "Thanhauser: Händler, Sammler, Stifter." Sediment: Mitteilungen zur Geschichte des Kunsthandels, Zentralarchiv des Internationalen Kunsthandels ZADIK 2 (2004), pp. 16–17, 58, fig. 3.

    "Deaths: Haupt, Enid A." New York Times (October 27, 2005), p. B13.

    Julia May Boddewyn in Michael FitzGerald. Picasso and American Art. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art. New York, 2006, p. 375.

    Gloria Groom in Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant Garde. Ed. Rebecca A Rabinow. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2006, pp. 238–39, fig. 248.

    Asher Ethan Miller in Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant Garde. Ed. Rebecca A Rabinow. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2006, pp. 387–88, no. 147, ill.

    Sabine Rewald in Masterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 202, 287–88, no. 187, ill. (color and bw).

    Emily D. Bilski. Die "Moderne Galerie" von Heinrich Thannhauser/ The "Moderne Galerie" of Heinrich Thannhauser. Exh. cat., Jüdisches Museum München. Munich, 2008, pp. 28, 39 n. 48.

    Rainer Maria Rilke. Briefe an Hertha Koenig, 1914–1921. Ed. Theo Neteler. Bielefeld, 2009, pp. 18–19, 25–26, 67, 139, 145, 154–57, 159–60.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History