Tag: juan gris

Cubism: An intellectual revolt against the artistic expression of previous eras

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Cubism: An intellectual revolt against the artistic expression of previous eras

Cubist Theory

Cubism began as an intellectual revolt against the artistic expression of previous eras. 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. To replace these they employed an analytic system in which the three-dimensional subject (usually still life) was fragmented and redefined within a shallow plane or within several interlocking and often transparent planes.

Analytic and Synthetic Cubism

In the analytic phase (1907–12) the cubist palette was severely limited, largely to black, browns, grays, and off-whites. In addition, forms were rigidly geometric and compositions subtle and intricate. Cubist abstraction as represented by the analytic works of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris intended an appeal to the intellect. The cubists sought to show everyday objects as the mind, not the eye, perceives them—from all sides at once. The trompe l’oeil element of collage was also sometimes used.

During the later, synthetic phase of cubism (1913 through the 1920s), paintings were composed of fewer and simpler forms based to a lesser extent on natural objects. Brighter colors were employed to a generally more decorative effect, and many artists continued to use collage in their compositions. The works of Picasso, Braque, and Gris are also representative of this phase.

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Juan Gris and Cubist Artworks

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Juan Gris and Cubist Artworksx

About 1910, a number of young artists working in Paris begin to examine closely the astonishing pictorial discoveries that had just been made. Of these artists, two emerged quickly as masters who could create and sustain a personal Cubist world whose quality might at times even rival the best of Picasso and Braque.

In 1912 Picasso and Braque were joined in their creation of Cubism by a third artist, Juan Gris (Gris was a Cubist by 1911 but his real historical importance dates from the following year). 1912 was also the year in which the new Cubist techniques, collage and papier collé, were invented. The works of Gris and the use made of the new media by all three artists between 1912 and 1914 are the subject of the third chapter.

The fourth and final chapter is an account of the dissemination of the style in France and comprises a stylistic survey of the development of individual artists such as Léger and Delaunay who were temporarily attracted to Cubism and developed individual variants of the style. The book ends with the outbreak of war in 1914, when the painters were physically separated by the war and the school, as such, was dissolved.

José Victoriano Gonzalez was born and raised in Madrid, a city artistically provincial by comparison with the Barcelona that nurtured Gaudi, Picasso, Miró, and Dali. He decided to move to Paris and, shortly before leaving Spain, changed his name to Juan Gris. Arriving in the artistic capital of Europe in 1906, he moved into the bateau-lavoir, the famous “floating laundry” of Montmartre where Picasso and other avant-garde painters and poets lived. By 1908 he had made the acquaintance of Kahnweiler, who was to be his biographer. It was not until 1910, however, that he begin to turn from his work as a graphic artist for Parisian newspapers to painting.

His initial exploration of Cubism was made with the same rapidity and brilliance that characterized the 70 unfolding of so many artistic careers around 1910. Already in a still life of 1911, the essentials of Gris’s style are defined. In comparison with Braque’s and Picasso’s contemporary Analytic Cubist work, Gris’s canvas is more severe and more lucid.

Four objects — a bottle, a humidor, a wineglass, and a bowl — are aligned in a grid of diagonals, verticals, and horizontals, and take their places with in immobility that belies the weightless, glistening planes of which they are composed. The measured solemnity of the structure is matched by the intense and mysterious light that illumines the objects with a whiteness as absolute as the blackness of the shadows where no light falls.

In her biography of Picasso, Gertrude Stein wrote that “the seduction of flowers and of landscapes, of still lifes was inevitably more seductive to Frenchmen thin to Spaniards; Juan Gris always made still lifes but to him a still life was not a seduction it was a religion…” With these words, she might have been describing this Still Life of 1911, whose religious quality recalls the seventeenth-century Spanish still lifes of such masters as Francisco de Zurbarán, with whom Gris’s art has often been linked. In one 68 of Zurbarán’s still lifes the analogy becomes clear.

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