Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Picture of the Week No.19 - Juan Gris

For this week's picture I have turned to one of the key exponents of cubism - after the big two of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque: the artist known as Juan Gris, José Victoriano González-Pérez (23 March 1887–11 May 1927). He was born in Spain but moved to Paris in 1906 at a crucial moment in the development of Modern art. He became friends with Picasso and painted him in 1912, Fernand Léger, Amedeo Modigliani (who painted Gris in 1915) and Henri Matisse. His cubist works were individual and significant, and with a palette that owed more to Matisse than the monochrome of Braque and Picasso's analytical cubist works. Such was the respect given to him by his fellow Spaniard, teacher and rival, as Gertrude Stein noted, he was "the one person that Picasso would have willingly wiped off the map". Tragically, he didn't match Picasso for longevity and died at 40, and the work from the Cecil Higgins Collection comes from a period of convalescence from illness a few years earlier in 1921. The clarity of line in this more naturalistic lithograph shows the skill that Gris possessed - a real genius with line which underpinned his cubist compositions. When seen on its own, as in this study, Gris' elegant hand really shines through. KP

Juan GRIS (1887 - 1927)
Portrait of a boy, 1921
lithograph, 39.2 x 31cm (plate) 40.3 x 32.2cm (sheet)
inscribed: in plate Juan Gris 3.21/ in pencil Juan Gris 24/50

Accession No.: P.539
PROVENANCE: Grosvenor Gallery, from whom purchased by Gallery, October 1966.

During the period 1920-21 Gris made a number of 'naturalistic' drawings intermixed with his more widely known Cubist oeuvre. In 1920 he was thought to have contracted pneumonia, an ailment that forced him to convalesce, initially in Les Fourneaux and then by 1921 at Bandol-sur-mer on the Cote d'Azur.

In 1921 he made a number of portraits in pencil including the art dealer Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler and a self-portrait, and also some lithographic portraits including Marcelle the brunette, and Jean the Musician. The young boy was the eleven-year-old son of his butcher, who assisted Gris with his sketching and painting during the first quarter of 1921. The artist was described as being 'somewhat impatient' with the child. However, he was recorded as being upset when the boy's family moved away to the Cannes region in March. JMcG

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