Despite his initial success at the Vollard exhibition in 1901, Picasso's funds soon dried up. It was not unusual for the artist to go hungry during this period in Paris, but his own circumstances only heightened his awareness of their desperate poverty that frequently surrounded him. Back in Barcelona in 1902 Picasso produced the painting entitled The Soup.
Once again he drew upon his experiences in visiting the women's prison of Saint-lazare However, he also harked back to a visit he had made to the Pantheon to see the murals, completed five years earlier by the French. Symbolist painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-98). One of Puvis' scenes from the life of St Genevieve notably represented a starving woman being assisted in the street. Picasso sketched this scene, which probably influenced his decision to paint a similar moment. The Soup, however, is intriguingly ambiguous. Is the older woman, physically weighed down by her destitution, giving the soup to the small child or receiving it from her? Either way, Picasso centers the act of charity upon the basic need for nourishment.