By 1921 the artist was employing the stylistic approaches within the medium of collage artworks in his paintings. A collage involves adding other materials to the picture surface. Although this work, The Three Musicians, is purely an oil-on-canvas painting, Picasso has mimicked the style of a collage as an extended form of Cubism.
We have descended here to simple shapes and colors, but our mind's eye can nevertheless pick out the finer details. We see three musicians, one playing a saxophone, another on a guitar, and the third with a song sheet in his hands. They sit or stand behind a table and on top of a rug in a small room. Two holes for eyes have been given to each, as well as two feet, two hands (barely distinguishable), and each his own color scheme (implying costume dress). The far-left musician even has a mustache. This lively bunch of complementary colors strikes the viewer as an instantly characteristic trio of expressive people, simply drawn but brightly colorized to emphasize the vividness of their expression through music. Jazz was coming into style at this time, thanks in part to the musical works of American composer George Gershwin, who seamlessly blended classical music with jazz and revolutionized the coming musical era. And as eclectic as that musical genre can be, these three artists clash with their monotonous, brown background and even with each other. White against black, blue against yellow, Picasso's approach to color vivifies the characters with more life than could be expressed through realist imagery. Cubism has, in addition to deconstructing, rebuilt their image in a grander, though more simplistic, fashion.