In 1895, Picasso's family moved from La Coruno to Barcelona. Here the young Picasso soon entered the advanced class of La Lonja School of Art, despite being much younger than his contemporaries. In addition to using his parents as models, Picasso also began to produce self-portraits during his youth. One of the earliest of these dates from 1896 and shows the still-boyish artist in his mid teens. The portrait is again executed in the conventional academic manner, its sketch-like, unfinished quality betraying its status as a training exercise.
Picasso here appears as a serious-minded and conscientious art student, his close-cropped hair, upright posture and neatly arranged artist's smock revealing a growing awareness of, and pride in, his own appearance. At the same time, Picasso shows his knowledge of artistic precedents, not least of all the self-portraits of the Dutch seventeenth-century painter Rembrandt van Rijn. Here the use of sharp, direct light adds drama to the composition and emphasizes an aspect of Picasso's appearance that will dominate many of his later self-portraits - namely his dark eyes and impenetrable stare.