Juan Gris

José Victoriano Carmelo Carlos González-Pérez, 1887 to 1927, better known as Juan Gris was a Spanish painter and sculptor born in Madrid who lived and worked in France most of his life. Closely connected to the innovative artistic genre Cubism, his works are among the movement's most distinctive. In 1906 he moved to Paris and became friends with Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger and followed the lead of another friend and fellow countryman, Pablo Picasso. He submitted darkly humorous illustrations to journals such as Le Rire, L'assiette au beurre, Le Charivari, and Le Cri de Paris. He began to paint seriously in 1911 when he gave up working as a satirical cartoonist, developing at this time a personal Cubist style exhibiting for the first time at the 1912 Salon des Indépendants with Hommage à Pablo Picasso. Gris's works from late 1916 through 1917 exhibit a greater simplification of geometric structure, a blurring of the distinction between objects and setting, between subject matter and background. The oblique overlapping planar constructions, tending away from equilibrium, can best be seen in Woman with Mandolin, after Corot in 1916 and in its epilogue, Portrait of Josette Gris also from 1916. The clear-cut underlying geometric framework of these works seemingly controls the finer elements of the compositions; the constituent components, including the small planes of the faces, become part of the unified whole. Though Gris certainly had planned the representation of his chosen subject matter, the abstract armature serves as the starting point. The geometric structure of Juan Gris's Crystal period is already palpable in Still Life before an Open Window, Place Ravignan in 1915. The overlapping elemental planar structure of the composition serves as a foundation to flatten the individual elements onto a unifying surface, foretelling the shape of things to come. In 1919 and particularly 1920, artists and critics began to write conspicuously about this 'synthetic' approach, and to assert its importance in the overall scheme of advanced Cubism. After October 1925, Gris was frequently ill with bouts of uremia and cardiac problems. He died of renal failure in Paris on May 11, 1927, at the age of 40, leaving a wife, Josette, and a son, Georges, and a legacy of truly magnificent artwork.
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