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Juan Gris was an artist who took everyday objects and produced modern, uplifting still life paintings from them. He was a unique voice within the Cubist movement, offering a more grounded influence on some of the more revolutionary-minded.
There were several items that appear again and again through out the Cubist period, with many different members of the group making use of them at some point. Newspapers are seen regularly and Gris liked to present these "as were", whilst others would shred them or alter them in other ways.
Common Cubist Themes
Other elements that you might find on a breakfast table are also too be found here, such as bottles, bowls, fruit and cutlery. Beyond the breakfast theme, musical instruments can also be found in a number of Cubist paintings, most frequently guitars. Juan Gris himself made use of different types of guitars in a large number of still life works, whilst Picasso actually produced abstract versions of them out of cardboard during his time working with other mediums.
Beyond these domestic scenes, the artist would then take on some landscape paintings, many portraits of friends, family and colleagues as well as also some scenes of entertainment from his busy social life. One intriguing aspect of the Cubist movement is that Juan Gris was the only member of this group that genuinely unsettled its figurehead, Pablo Picasso, through the quality of his work. For the naturally confident Picasso to feel threatened by another is particularly rare, and underlines the qualities that he saw in his colleague's work.
Partnership with Braque and Picasso
Whilst the two worked together alongside Georges Braque in the early days of the Cubist movement, it was becoming clear that French art was moving on from what had gone before and a number of astute collectors started to pin their hopes on this particular group of creative young men. The likes of Daniel Henry Kahnweiler would take a punt on large collections of these artist's work which would arrive in bulk, in a disorganised assortment of sketches and paintings. Picasso was certainly the main focus at this point but others were also being recognised because of their connection to the Cubist movement.
The members of the Cubist movement would seek to avoid the traditional routes for promoting one's career and instead relied on their private collectors to open up other avenues of promotion. They were connected to a number of other galleries that were willing to feature their work and this method seemed to be very much in line with their desire to offer the art world something new. Kahnweiler was particularly useful in providing contacts to promote their careers, but he also held a clear financial interest in doing so, because it was raise the prices of many of the items that he had already purchased.
Promotion of Cubism Internationally
The likes of Picasso and Braque would also then start to promote cubist paintings abroad for the first time as the group moved from strength to strength by around the early 1910s. The earliest official cubist shows at this point were actually arranged by Metzinger and Gleizes, with the main three names still somewhat on the fringes, stylistically.
Juan Gris was an exceptionally versatile artist, who even produced costumes for the Ballet Russes at one point in his career. Whilst his sculptures and skills as a draughtsman are also both well respected, it is his paintings within the modern art movement of Cubism that will always receive the most focus. Having studied several particularly rigid academic subjects as a student, Gris wanted to push this type of education away and go for a more flexible direction in his working life.
It was his early ability in drawing that got him admitted into art schools and from there he could spread his interest into other avenues of artistic expression. It would then be his friendships and collaborations with other artists that would complete his journey towards achieving the impressive and varied oeuvre that you find listed in this section.