Skip to Content
100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
© 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Spanish, 1881 - 1973
The Rower
Oil on canvas

28 3/8 x 23 1/2 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase funded by Oveta Culp Hobby; Isaac and Agnes Cullen Arnold; Charles E. Marsh; Mrs. William Stamps Farish; and the Robert Lee Blaffer Memorial Collection, gift of Sarah Campbell Blaffer, all by exchange; and the Brown Foundation Accessions Endowment Fund

Arts of Europe

This work by Pablo Picasso is a pivotal early Cubist painting. Painted in a Spanish fishing village, the work was first thought to depict a man rowing, but it is more likely a study of a seated woman.

With Cubism, Picasso and fellow artist Georges Braque broke down the components of the picture plane. Rejecting the representation of three-dimensional forms through traditional one-point perspective, they instead represented their subjects through a system of flat signs.

The Rower belongs to the period of Analytic Cubism, as seen in the painting's limited palette of brown, gray, and black, and its nearly unrecognizable subject. The figure—defined by complex horizontal layering—emerges from an undefined background. The oval head, rectangular neck, and sharp angles of elbows are identifiable, even as the arrangement of shapes suggests abstract volumes in space.