Everyone has seen The Old Guitarist. It’s one of those paintings, like The Mona Lisa or Starry Night or The Persistence of Memory, that has survived time and trends and somehow made it into the Western cultural subconscious – people who don’t like or know anything about art still vaguely recognize it. If you’d like to see The Old Guitarist in person (and you should, even if security tells you not to), the painting hangs among the walls of the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s something else.
The subject matter is simple: an old, blind beggar playing a guitar in rags on a Barcelona street. But what’s noticeable is how the color palette plays to the subject matter, a gradient of blues that sets the tone of the painting. It’s not the only one: Between 1901 and 1904, Pablo Picasso painted several works with a similar eye that are still being examined today – in fact, just this week, it was revealed that infrared technology had uncovered another layer in 1901’s The Blue Room.
Contemporary critics and the public, however, did not receive these paintings warmly. The beggars and prostitutes of his art soured crowds that had been showing a great interest in his work just a year before. We know it now as Picasso’s Blue Period, a dark layover in the artist’s life.
So you’ve got one of the great artists of his time making challenging works – some inarguably among his best – in a state of desperation and nobody’s noticing. This is a post about art, sure, but it’s also about sports. And no one is painting a more desperate picture in the art of motorcycle racing right now than Jorge Lorenzo.