Picasso Museum of Barcelona

The Madman
Signed Picasso and dated 1904 in the top left-hand corner
Dedicated A mi buen/amigo Sebastian/Junyent/Picasso
Watercolour on paper (two fragments)
85 x 35 cm
Sebastià Junyent Collection
Plandiura acquisition, 1932
MPB 4.272

The Work

This work is a key piece from the period where Picasso continued to delve into the world of marginalisation and poverty characterising the Blue Period. The character connects with the beggars, elderly and blind Picasso painted and drew abundantly throughout 1903 and 1904.

He uses a language of marked expressionism and mannerism, with clear El Greco reminiscences. The personal and original El Greco style – seen in a trend to elongate the figures, at times denaturalising them – is notable in this Picasso character.

The taste for mannerism, thanks to which the conventional axes of composition are shattered and there is a rupture between form and function, is not only seen in the stylised body but also in the feet and hands. The latter are clearly disproportionate and skeletal, distorted and come close to the face – the expressionism leaving the poor man’s illness clear and centring all the dramatic tension. Referring to El Greco, Picasso told Brassaï: ‘I had already seen some of his paintings I admired...I decided to travel to Toledo which had a profound effect on me. If my figures from the Blue Period stretch out, it is probably thanks to his influence.’

The figure is traced with vigorous strokes and emphasised sections. The blue watercolour gently tinges some parts of the body and oversteps the limits of the human silhouette in some areas to lightly mark points in the backgroud and simulate shade on an undefined ground.

Pierre Daix points out that The Madman was possibly shown at the exhibition organised by Berthe Weill in her gallery in October and November 1904.

The work is closely linked to a watercolour entitled El Loco (The Madman) by Picasso himself, presently part of the Guggenheim Museum collection in New York.


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Room 8