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Juan Gris

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Juan Gris, a Spanish-born painter, made important contributions to the modern style of painting called Cubism. GrisÐ"*s paintings were always depicting his immediate surroundings. He painted still lives composed of simple, everyday objects, portraits of friends, and occasionally landscapes or cityscapes. The objects in his paintings and collages are more clearly defined and richly colored than those in the works of the earlier cubists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

His attention to the object in his compositions, and more typically Spanish hues, link his work to the Spanish still-life tradition. That tradition presents itself in many of his works. In Gris, work Bottle of Anis del Mono he puts the whole label of the bottle. Most typical of which is PicassoÐ"*s Spanish Still Life. In this work, Picasso utilizes the precise red and yellow colors of the Spanish flag in depicting a ticket to a bullfight. Synthetic cubism was what Gris was painting. Pablo Picasso also being of Spanish decent used these influences.

Cubism began as an intellectual revolt against the artistic expression of previous eras. Analytical Cubism and Synthetic Cubism are the two main terms used to describe paintings from this movement. In Analytical Cubism, the artist broke down, or analyzed, and then reassembled the observed forms in a mixture of ways. Similarly, in Synthetic Cubism, artists attempted to synthesize or combine imaginative elements into new representational structures. Among the specific elements abandoned by the cubists were the sensual appeal of paint texture and color, subject matter with emotional charge or mood, the play of light on form, movement, atmosphere, and the illusionism that proceeded from scientifically based perspective. Instead, Cubists used an analytic system in order to disjoint and reorganize the three-dimensional subject, which they were painting. In a shallow plane or within many interlocking and usually transparent planes the object would be lost and found again. Usually showing the object from different angles on a two dimensional plane.

Originally, from Spain, Juan Gris moved to Paris in 1906. It was there where he learned and watched the progression of cubism. He met and lived next to innovators of this art form, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Although he is not the pioneer of this art form, his first significant paintings appeared in 1910 and he adopted the cubist style the following year. In 1912 he exhibited his Homage to Picasso which established him as a first rate cubist. Cubist paintings appear between the years 1908 through the First World War.

A well-known painting that embodies this style, called Cubism is Still Life with a Guitar by Juan Gris, painted in 1913. Gris was 26 years old, when he did this oil painting. This was early in his brief career, which ended in 1927 at the age of 40. The geometrical compositions in which fragmented objects and sharp edged planes come together in an unreal clarity characterize this as part of the art form.

This work is less rigid then his other work and the objects on the table are easily identifiable. The work fills the canvas from corner to corner. Twice within the painting, you can see the guitar. There is also a shadow coming from the guitar. The shadow is not logical within the realm of reality, but typical of a cubist work. The guitar is resting on a ribboned portfolio. He also paints the wood grain, which was a later addition to cubism. In this painting there is a collage feeling element. It looks as if he pasted paper onto it but it is paint. He paints the words Le Jou on the paper that means to play. Therefore, it is as if he is playing with the pasting technique that Picasso was using in his work. They did have a friendly competitiveness between them and he paints a music sheet. Included are a pair of dice cups, a French newspaper, two clusters of grapes, and donÐ"*t forget the cubist cup. Silhouetted flat and in black are other discernable objects such as bottles, glasses, and a cubist pipe. It is highly likely that Gris owned these objects, since the subject matter of CubistsÐ"* paintings are typically objects found in their studio. This is especially evident in 1913 where Gris repeatedly uses the guitar and violin in his still-lives. In fact, 20 out of the 33 still-lives done in 1913 involve music consisting primarily of guitars, mandolins and violins.

Within the painting, there is a feeling of uncertainty about what is involved. Is there a table that the objects are resting on? On the other hand, is the floor made of wood and these objects are on the floor. The play between foreground and background is present in this work. The use of color in this painting makes it stand out from Picasso and Braque. They tended to have more subdued colors in their work. The guitar is also cut up. It looks as if it is cut and becomes the background and turns into shadow. The neck of the guitar takes on the blue, which ties it to underneath the wood slab/table.

Gris uses a specific combination of arcs and triangles in this work. These elements add to the illusion of depth that is not there. The triangle combined to the circle in the wood looks like a type of instrument sound hole, and adds to the mystique of the guitar. It is clear that he is playing with his audience and cubism but I think that the word play in the painting was directed towards Picasso. GrisÐ"*s version of Cubism is Synthetic because it was more severe and classical and less spontaneous and instinctive than Picasso and BraqueÐ"*s Analytical.

His earlier career as a caricaturist for

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