Picasso painted The Kitchen in November 1948, on the thirty-year anniversary of the death of the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, his dear friend, and just seven days after Apollinaire's widow asked Picasso to revisit an earlier memorial project. Twenty years before, Picasso had designed the commemorative sculpture Monument to Apollinaire, but the Apollinaire Committee had deemed it too abstract to suit its purpose (a later version is on display in the Museums Sculpture Garden).
The Kitchen's wiry linearity evokes Monument to Apollinaire. Picasso used his kitchen, a large, white, empty room, as a subject in order to make a painting, he reported, "out of nothing." He created the somber, existential work at the end of a series of large-scale monochromatic paintings, including the monumental Guernica (1937), all of which depict scenes of violent turmoil. He had also recently returned from his first visit to the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland, and the works restricted, mute abstraction may be a response to Europe's recent atrocities as well as the loss of a great friend.