Juan Gris

Juan Gris was born in 1887. He was a Spanish born French painter who went to the cubist school. Originally his name was Jose Vittoriano Gonzalez, he was born in Madrid and educated there. He left Madrid in 1906 and went to Paris, making the acquaintance of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and of the French painter Georges Braque. Gris's first cubist paintings, generally more calculated than those of Picasso and Braque, appeared in 1912. He spent the next summer in Cret, France, with Picasso, and while there adopted the use of papier coll, shapes cut from paper and glued to the canvas. During World War I (1914-1918) he worked in Paris he had his first one-man exhibition in Paris in 1919. From 1922 to 1924 he designed settings for two ballets of the Russian producer Sergey Diaghilev, Les tentations de la bergre (The Temptations of the Shepherdess) and La colombe (The Dove), as well as continuing work on his own paintings. After 1925 he worked mainly on gouaches, watercolors, and illustrations for books. Some of his famous works include Portait of Josee, The Table and The Open window.

Portrait of Josette was created in 1916 and is now in the Musea del in Prado, Madrid. This was deffinetly one of Gris's greatest achievements. The portrait of Josette is based on his studies after Corot and Cezanne. To perfection he seemed to create a stunning mixture of the foreground and the background. This beauty is accomplished through color patterns that ensemble different spatial planes. The blacks which are used around the bosom, butox and leg are used to enhance this women's shapely figure. The transparency does not result in an illusion of depth instead it acts as something to join the planes together. The table was created in Spring of 1914. Today it is located in Philadelphia in the Museum of Art. The surfaces of collages such as The Table are nearly entirely covered with a wide variety of overlapping papers. These fragments, moreover, are now deployed in increasingly complex ways: the shape of a piece of paper may correspond to the shape of the depicted object or it may itself provide a ground for figuration, whether drawn, painted, or in the form of additional, superimposed collage elements. And Gris continued to appropriate materials for their literal representational function as mere images, as he had in his earliest collages. In The Table, for example, Gris glued a page of a detective novel to his drawing of an open book and part of a real newspaper headline to his canvas in hope of imitating these images with pencil or paintbrush. But these collage elements also take on a metaphoric value: the spectator's attempt to distinguish the true and the false (alluded to in the newspaper clipping) from the myriad paradoxical and contradictory clues contained in the collage may be compared (not without some humor) to the investigative work of the detective in the novel. Whereas Picasso had demonstrated the multiplicity of ways in which the material aspect of a signifier is not transparent to its signified, Gris sought to show the coincidence of substance and meaning. For Gris, the transparency of glass was embodied (rather than arbitrarily signified) in the transparency of a paper whose two faces had merged and become one. Transparency, however, is always contingent on the presence of light. Gris made this clear in The Table by dividing his composition into two, antithetical zones a dark blue and black peripheral zone is spotlighted by an oval field in the center. The projecting edges of the rectangular table in all four corners of the canvas have been constructed by pasting thin paper to the canvas ground and then painting both the paper and remaining canvas with the same dark blue paint. Shading, executed in charcoal over the paint, brings these nearly obliterated differences in texture to the threshold of visibility. In dramatic contrast, the golden tonality that pervades the central oval allows for a wide range of differences in material textures, patterns, weight, and color as well as subtleties of drawing to be perceived.

In The Table, Gris represents the still life table as both an upright oval, which coheres to the vertical plane of the canvas, and as a rectangular table receding in depth. Although the disparity in point of view might be explained as an attempt to give the spectator more information about the table than a single view could provide, the contradiction between an oval and a rectangular table can only work to undermine the spectator's confidence that any information at all about the table has been provided. This opposition, long central to Picasso's still lives, Gris adapted to good effect in The Table, although in doing so he gave it a new burden of meaning: the metaphorical opposition between a realm of shadows and a realm filled with light. In 1921 The Open Window was created and today is part of the M.Meyer collection in Zurich. Living beside the sea at Bandol in 1921, Gris had diverse reactions to the setting. It was "sinister," "beautiful," and "sad." So moved was he that the theme of the open window dominated his production that year. In the first of these works, The Open Window, Gris returned to the metaphoric conception of Place Ravignan. That is, the interior and exterior spaces are distinct. Instead of a still life before a window, however, Gris discovered an archetypical subject for him, the musical instrument before nature. Though no text exists to make this combination a conventionally recognized allegory, the two principal components have long traditions in art history and in Gris's own evolution. We may, thus, speak of a private system of symbols in this case. Again, Gris's friendship with Matisse may have intervened, for until the later paintings of 1917, an instrument before a window did not exist in the history of the window motif in art, although it was hinted at in allegories of the senses. The interior, characterized by music, is evocative of the human world of art and intellect. The landscape has direct, visual, and sensuous qualities typical of nature. There is perhaps implicit a yearning for that natural simplicity. Potential for a merger is shown by the rhythmic repetition of curves in the guitar and mountains and in the cloud that begins to enter the room. Before this research of Juan Gris I did not realize what a master he was in his creations. It really introduced me to a new form of art. Juan Gris's art was different then the other masters I looked at. He uses such originality and perfection in most of his work. This project really opened my eyes to the magnificent world of Juan Gris.