The so-called Blue Period of Picasso begins early in the winter of 1901 and ends late in 1904. The relative uniformity of the works falling under this designation is all the more remarkable because the artist's life during those years was particularly unsettled: he frequently changed his place of residence, and was engaged in a hard struggle for existence. At the end of 1901 he returned to Barcelona; in 1902, late in the summer, he attempted to conquer Paris for the third time (in the interval other exhibitions of his work took place there). But he was soon again penniless, and was forced to share a small hotel room with his friend, the poet Max Jacob. Early in 1903 Max Jacob too found himself in straitened circumstances, and Picasso was forced to return to Barcelona. He worked there until the spring of 1904'when he went to Paris for the fourth time, finally succeeding in gaining a permanent foothold there. He moved to the famous Bateau-lavoir ("floating laundry"), a drab Montmartre tenement at 13 Rue Ravignan, now 13 Place Émile-Goudeau, where he lived until 1909 with struggling young writers and painters as his closest neighbors. Fernande Olivier has given us an account of those often desperately difficult years when his genius blossomed; she vividly evokes the small, vigorous, continually restless, and curiously fascinating Spaniard amidst his friends. At no other time in Picasso's long career was his life so closely interwoven with his art as in those years when he portrayed human misery in classical works reflecting his belief that art is born of sadness and suffering.
The typical works of the Blue Period are devoid of lively colors: they are almost in monochrome—cool, passive, earthenware-blue has supplanted all the more active colors except for an occasional ghostly oxide-green. The most various hypotheses have been advanced as to the origin of this infinitely desolate blue. It is sometimes traced back to influences of other paintings; sometimes physiological or psychological explanations are offered.
The main reason why Picasso at that time chose blue as his dominant color lies probably in its negative value and its otherworldly symbolism, which are in perfect accord with the expressive form of the paintings.
(p. 121) Célestine 1903