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Juan Gris

Juan Gris
File:Juan Gris, 1922, photograph by Man Ray, Paris. Gelatin silver print.jpg
Juan Gris, 1922, photograph by Man Ray (Paris)
Born José Victoriano González-Pérez
(1887-03-23)March 23, 1887
Died May 11, 1927(1927-05-11) (aged 40)
Nationality Spanish
Known for Painting, sculpture
Movement Cubism

José Victoriano (Carmelo Carlos) González-Pérez (March 23, 1887 – May 11, 1927), better known as Juan Gris (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈxwan ˈɡɾis]), 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.

Early life

Born in Madrid, Gris studied mechanical drawing at the Escuela de Artes y Manufacturas in Madrid from 1902 to 1904, during which time he contributed drawings to local periodicals. From 1904 to 1905, he studied painting with the academic artist José Moreno Carbonero. It was in 1905 that José Victoriano González adopted the more distinctive name Juan Gris.[1]


In 1906 he moved to Paris and became friends with Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger. In Paris, Gris 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.

Gris began to paint seriously in 1911 (when he gave up working as a satirical cartoonist), developing at this time a personal Cubist style. In A Life of Picasso, John Richardson writes that Jean Metzinger's 1911 work, Le goûter (Tea Time), persuaded Juan Gris of the importance of mathematics (numbers) in painting.[2] Gris started painting persistently in 1911 and exhibited for the first time at the 1912 Salon des Indépendants (a painting entitled Hommage à Pablo Picasso).[3]

"He appears with two styles", writes art historian Peter Brooke, "In one of them a grid structure appears that is clearly reminiscent of the Goûter and of Metzinger's later work in 1912."[3] In the other, Brooke continues, "the grid is still present but the lines are not stated and their continuity is broken. Their presence is suggested by the heavy, often triangular, shading of the angles between them... Both styles are distinguished from the work of Picasso and Braque by their clear, rational and measurable quality."[3] Although Gris regarded Picasso as a teacher, Gertrude Stein wrote in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas that "Juan Gris was the only person whom Picasso wished away".[4]

In 1912 Gris exhibited at the Exposicío d'art cubista, galeríes J. Dalmau in Barcelona; the gallery Der Sturm in Berlin; the Salon de la Société Normande de Peinture Moderne in Rouen; and the Salon de la Section d'Or in Paris. Gris, in that same year, signed a contract that gave D.-H. Kahnweiler exclusive rights to his work.[5]

At first Gris painted in the style of Analytical Cubism, a term he himself later coined,[6] but after 1913 he began his conversion to Synthetic Cubism, of which he became a steadfast interpreter, with extensive use of papier collé or, collage. Unlike Picasso and Braque, whose Cubist works were practically monochromatic, Gris painted with bright harmonious colors in daring, novel combinations in the manner of his friend Matisse. Gris exhibited with the painters of the Puteaux Group in the Salon de la Section d'Or in 1912.[7] His preference for clarity and order influenced the Purist style of Amédée Ozenfant and Charles Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier), and made Gris an important exemplar of the post-war "return to order" movement.[8] In 1915 he was painted by his friend, Amedeo Modigliani.

Designer and theorist

In 1924, he designed ballet sets and costumes for Sergei Diaghilev and the famous Ballets Russes.

Gris articulated most of his aesthetic theories during 1924 and 1925. He delivered his definitive lecture, Des possibilités de la peinture, at the Sorbonne in 1924. Major Gris exhibitions took place at the Galerie Simon in Paris and the Galerie Flechtheim in Berlin in 1923 and at the Galerie Flechtheim in Düsseldorf in 1925.


After October 1925, Gris was frequently ill with bouts of uremia and cardiac problems. He died of renal failure[9] in Boulogne-sur-Seine (Paris) on May 11, 1927, at the age of 40, leaving a wife, Josette, and a son, Georges.

Art market

The top auction price for a Gris work is $57.1 million (£34.8 million), achieved for his 1915 painting Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux.[10] This surpassed previous records of $20.8 million for his 1915 still life Livre, pipe et verres and $28.6 million for the 1913 artwork Violon et guitare.[11]

Selected works




  1. ^ Gris 1998, p. 124.
  2. ^ John Richardson: A Life of Picasso, volume II, 1907-1917, The Painter of Modern Life, Jonathan Cape, London, 1996, p.211
  3. ^ a b c "Peter Brooke, On "Cubism" in context, online since 2012". Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  4. ^ After Gris' death, Stein said to Picasso, "You never realized his meaning because you did not have it", to which Picasso replied, "You know very well that I did". Caws, Mary Ann (2005). Pablo Picasso. Reaktion Books. ISBN 1-86189-247-0. p. 66
  5. ^ "Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Lucy Flint-Gohlke, Thomas M. Messer, Handbook, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Abrams, 1983". Internet Archive. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Honour, H. and J. Fleming, (2009) A World History of Art. 7th edn. London: Laurence King Publishing, p. 784. ISBN 9781856695848
  7. ^ Cooper, Philip. Cubism. London: Phaidon, 1995, p. 56. ISBN 0714832502
  8. ^ Cowling and Mundy 1990, p. 117
  9. ^ Green, Oxford Art Online: "Juan Gris"
  10. ^ "Juan Gris (1887-1927) | Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux | Impressionist & Modern Art Auction | 20th Century, Paintings | Christie's". Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  11. ^ "Juan Gris (1887-1927) | Violon et guitare | Impressionist & Modern Art Auction | 20th Century, Paintings | Christie's". Retrieved 2012-03-23. 


  • Cowling, Elizabeth; Mundy, Jennifer. 1990. On Classic Ground: Picasso, Léger, de Chirico and the New Classicism 1910-1930. London: Tate Gallery. ISBN 1-85437-043-X
  • Green, Christopher. "Gris, Juan." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web.
  • Gris, Juan. 1998. Juan Gris: peintures et dessins, 1887-1927. [Marseille]: Musées de Marseille. ISBN 2-7118-2969-3. (French language)

External links

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