The present drawing is a related study for Picasso's La soupe (fig. 1), painted in Barcelona in 1903 (Zervos, vol. I, no. 131; coll. Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada). In the autumn of 1902, Picasso embarked upon his third journey to Paris, a period that was characterized by extreme emotional and financial strain. As his funds were limited, Picasso worked on paper rather than canvas, resulting in many interesting and emotionally-charged drawings. Palau i Fabre attests this stay was "one of the hardest periods in Picasso's life, perhaps the hardest of all...a parenthesis within the major unit of the Blue Period" (Picasso: The Early Years, New York, 1980, p. 314). This drawing was probably inspired by a scene he observed on the rue de Seine during the extremely cold winter where the temperatures dropped below zero. In this study, the emaciated male figure is seen carrying a bowl of warm sustenance, likely soup, to a woman holding an infant. The woman's breast is exposed, possibly suggesting her inability to feed her child, while a street dog jumps up toward the bowl further implying the grim circumstances. In the series of studies that culminate in La soupe (Palau i Fabre nos. 817-822) Picasso begins with the male figure carrying the soup and slowly scratches his face out and morphs the figure into a female carrying the bowl toward two small children. In the realization of the painting La soupe, Picasso has imbued his characteristic Blue period style, simplified the forms of the figures and created a classical composition of a mother kneeling toward her child, both with arms outstretched.
(fig. 1) La soupe, 1903, Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada.