Juan Gris images and biography
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See also: Cubism

Text from Edward Lucie-Smith, "Lives of the Great 20th-Century Artists"

"Juan Gris was a quietist, whose life was ostensibly marked by few major incidents. Though not the inventor of Cubism, he was one of its most able practitioners and evolved a very personal variety of it, combining elements which he had learned from Braque and Picasso with others which were his own personal invention. Typical of his approach was his remark about Cezanne, the universally acknowledged father of Cubism: 'Cezanne made a cylinder out of a bottle. I start from the cylinder to create a special kind of individual object. I make a bottle out of a cylinder.' A highly intelligent man, he had a marked impact on other painters - not only on the artists of the Section d'Or, the group with whom he identified himself, but also on senior members of the Ecole de Paris, such as Matisse, with whom he spent the summer at Collioure in 1914. He had a special sympathy for poets, and collaborated with a number of distinguished writers, among them Pierre Reverdy, whose Guitare Endormie he illustrated, Gertrude Stein and Raymond Radiguet.

"Gris was a pseudonym: he was born Jose Victoriano González in 1887, in Madrid, the thirteenth child of a rich Castilian merchant. He studied first to be an engineer at the School of Arts and Manufactures in Madrid, which he entered in 1902. By the time he abandoned this for an artistic career he was already contributing illustrations to the reviews Blanco y Negro and Madrid Comico.

"Madrid at this time was an extremely provincial milieu, much more so than Barcelona, and as soon as he could Gris abandoned it for Paris, arriving there in 1906 at the age of nineteen. He found himself a studio at the famous Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre, and was soon in contact with his compatriot Picasso, who also lived and worked there, and with the poets Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob and André Salmon, who formed part of Picasso's circle. At first he supported himself by making humorous drawings for papers such as Lássiette au beurre and Le Charivari, but in 1910 he began his career as a serious artist by making a series of large watercolours. In the following year he started to paint. Gris's subject-matter was always his immediate surroundings: he produced still lifes composed of simple, everyday objects, portraits of friends, and occasionally landscapes or cityscapes.

"In 1911 (the year in which he spent time with Picasso at Ceret) he held his first exhibition, showing fifteen paintings at the little gallery run by Clovis Sagot. This was well received by those whose opinion he respected, and he was sufficiently encouraged to send three paintings to the Salon des Indépendants in the spring of 1912. In October of the same year he showed his work in the Section d'Or exhibition, with Marcoussis, Gleizes and Metzinger. Since Braque and Picasso were not at this time showing their work, the Section d'Or was the public face of Cubism. Gris was clearly the most gifted of the group, and he attracted the attention both of dealers and of well informed collectors. Gertrude Stein and Leonce Rosenberg bought paintings, and Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler offered Gris a contract, which he accepted. His work was evolving rapidly; he had grasped the significance of collage almost as soon as it was invented by Braque and Picasso in 1912. This liberated his compositional sense enabling him to evolve the subtler patterns of overlapping planes characteristic of his mature work. At this time he was friendly with the Delaunays. Sonia recalled that he spent so much time at the Bal Bullier, their favourite night-spot, that they wondered that he still had enough energy left to work.

"The outbreak of war brought a momentary check, since Kahnweiler was an enemy alien and was forced to leave Paris. Gris's contract with him lapsed, but in 1917 he was able to make another with Leonce Rosenberg which tided him over until Kahnweiler's return to France, when he renewed his former allegiance. But in 1920, just after his new contract was signed, Gris suffered a serious attack of pleurisy, and his health was never to be strong again.

"Diaghilev was now taking an interest in Gris, having recognized in him a kind of classicism in tune with postwar taste. A first project, for Cuadro Flamenco, did not come to fruition, but in November 1922 Diaghilev commissioned Gris to design sets and costumes for Les Tentations de la Berë, which was premiered in 1924. In 1925 Gris had his first exhibition - and the only one in his lifetime - outside France, at the Flechtheim Gallery in Duesseldorf. His health was now very poor: bronchitis was succeeded by asthma and finally by uremia. Gris died on 11 May 1927 at the age of forty, leaving a wife, Josette, and a son, Georges."

Further reading on Juan Gris:

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Juan Gris Images

1910-11 Three Lamps
1911-12 Bottles and Knife
1911-12 Still-life with Oil Lamp
1912 Portrait of Picasso
1912 Still Life with Flowers
1913 Glass of Beer and Playing Cards
1913 Landscape with Houses at Ceret
1913 Landscape at Ceret
1913 Guitar on a Chair
1913 The Siphon
1913 Violin and Checkerboard
1913 The Guitar
1913 Pears and Grapes on a Table
1913 Untitled (Violin and Ink Bottle on a Table)
1913 Violin and Guitar
1913-14 Bottle and Glass on a Table
1914 The Bottle of Banyuls
1914 Fruit Dish and Carafe
1914 Breakfast
1914 The Guitar
1914 A Man in a Cafe
1914 Musician's Table
1914 Teacups
1915 The Breakfast
1915 Fantomas (Pipe and Newspaper)
1915 The Pot of Geraniums
1915 Guitar on a Table
1915 Still Life with Checked Tablecloth
1915 Still Life before an Open Window: Place Ravignan
1915 Violin and Glass
1915 Water-bottle, Bottle, and Fruit-dish
1916 Fruit Dish, Glass, and Lemon (Still Life with Newspaper)
1916 Portrait of Josette Gris
1916 The Violin
1918 The Guitar
1919 Harlequin at a Table
1919 Harlequin with Guitar
1919 Still Life with Fruit Dish and Mandolin
1921 The Mountain "Le Canigou"
1921 The Open Window
1925 The Painter's Window
1926-27 Guitar and Music Paper

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