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Pablo Picasso, Family of Saltimbanques, 1905, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Chester Dale Collection

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Family of Saltimbanques, Picasso

This painting shows a group of itinerant, socially marginalized circus performers who would have traveled from town to town to earn a living. Though the figures in this work stand close to one another, they are emotionally remote. The bleak, featureless landscape enhances the feeling of isolation and estrangement. This early work could reflect the sympathy Picasso felt for those who shared the transient lifestyle he had experienced in Paris before settling in a ramshackle apartment in Montemarte in 1904, a year before this was painted.