Juan Gris’ 125th birthday

Posted filed underCubism, Spain.

To commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Spanish painter Juan Gris, the third Musketeer of Cubism (Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque were the other two) Google has painted a cubist doodle on its home page.

José Victoriano González, better known as Juan Gris (his pseudonym), was an important exponent of the second phase of cubism known as High Cubism and his dominant style was Synthetic Cubism.

The abstract art of Cubism was the 20th century’s most revolutionary art movement. Juan Gris was born on March 23, 1887, in Madrid, Spain and died at a young age of 40 on May 11, 1927 in Boulogne-sur-Seine, France.

Gris’ Spanish roots are reflected in his paintings in which the guitar is a recurring theme and so are fruits and newspapers. The Google doodle in his honour also incorporates these three elements.

Juan Gris: Self portrait

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 Maria Carbonero. It was probably in 1905 that José González adopted the more distinctive pseudonym Juan Gris.

In 1906 he moved to Paris and became friends with Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, then in 1915 he was painted by his friend, Amedeo Modigliani. In Paris, Gris followed the lead of another friend and fellow countryman, Pablo Picasso. Although 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 1910, and by 1912 he had developed a personal Cubist style. His portrait of Picasso in 1912 is a significant early Cubist painting done by a painter other than Picasso or Braque. 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”.
Portrait of Picasso, 1912, oil on canvas, the Art Institute of Chicago

At first Gris painted in the analytic style of Cubism, 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 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. 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.

- Juan Gris: Self portrait at www.juangris.org
- Juan Gris at Bridgeman