Juan Gris

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One of the leading figures of the Cubist movement, Juan Gris is regarded as a great painter and illustrator. Gris adapted the style of Cubism to his art and refined it into what would become his own distinctive visual style. Whenever a viewer looks at any art based on Cubism they would know which one belongs to Juan Gris. Gris is referred to as ‘the third cubist’ after Pablo Picasso and George Braque. Just recently Gris’s work Violin et guitare was sold at Christie’s for a massive $28.6 million, to this day people are very impressed with Gris’s paintings. Despite being born in Spanish, Gris spent much of his time in Paris France and it there where he drew inspiration from none other than Picasso. On paper Cubism is quite analytical and artificial but Gris added his own personal touch to it and his cubist art was colourful and very intellectual. Gris remains a pivotal figure in the art world.

Jose Victoriano Gonzalez Perez was born in 1887 in Madrid, Spain. The long name prompted Gris to shorten it to Juan Gris. Gris initially enrolled in university to study mechanical engineering but became more interested in illustrations and drawings. His foray into mechanical engineering can be attributed to why he opted to tweak the traditional Cubist style of art to his own person style. A move to Paris and a budding friendship with Picasso enabled him to take up art full time. In the beginning Gris went for the traditional Cubism style but figured out he needed to do more with it to quench his artistic thirst, in Gris’s paintings the Cubism style is untainted and logical. Gris also added different layers to his paintings using different materials and colors. His working relationship with Picasso was so strong that he even painted Picasso. Gris’s portrait titled Picasso can be seen today at the Art Institute of Chicago. Rigged in shades of blue, gray and brown the image is Gris’s tribute to his artist friend and confidante. There are many overlapping layers of colors in the painting, almost as if it is in waves but the entire figure of Picasso can easily be made out. Gris’s initial study in engineering gave him an edge in terms of the Cubist style of painting, it taught him to be a lot more candid with his approach and composition. Every line, shape, color tone and pattern has been cleanly refined to generate a joint painting which is devoid of the usual decor and detail. Gris gave the cubist style of art way more depth than any other artist.

Gris worked mostly with still life for his paintings from tables, fruits, vases, newspapers and stands. The most general of items which were given a marvellous twist through Gris’s master technique, he made the mundane of items look stylish in his paintings. A good example of this is Gris’s masterpiece Still Life with Open Window, Rue Ravignan. The painting consists of a bottle, glass, book, newspaper and bowl of fruit on a table all arranged meticulously next to a window. Not a very interesting setting but by using the right angles and colors Gris creates something extraordinary. Instead of using the typical sunny day approach Gris sets the painting against the moonlight, the right amount of blue shade throwing the whole setting against a beautiful light. Everything from the paintings arrangement to its technique is perfection.

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