Charcoal on paper
48,5 x 32 cm / 19,1 x 12,6 in
Madrid 1887 - Boulogne-Billancourt 1927
José Victoriano González, who later became Juan Gris, was born in Madrid in 1887. He abandoned his prior engineering studies, to begin in 1904 studies at the School of Art and Manufacture of Madrid, and devote himself to painting. His first works were inspired by the « Jugendstil » (German Art Nouveau) seen as a major art by the Madrid contemporary art world.
Juan Gris was 18 years old when he moved to Paris in 1906 and quickly, after living in a hotel in Montmartre, moved to a studio in the Bateau-Lavoir. At the beginning, the artist would make a living by illustrating famous French journals (L'Assiette au beurre, Charivari, Le Cri de Paris, etc.) and Spanish magazines. He produced more than 700 drawings for the press, often humorous or satirical. From 1911, Juan Gris painted would completely devote himself to painting.
He was very impressed by the Cubist works of Braque and Picasso who quickly became his friends ; he would start Cubism with enthusiasm, giving a more intellectual and constructive dimension to his works. Juan Gris would keep a style that remained his own, based on rigorous, almost geometrical compositions when he represented objects. Juan Gris sculpted, created collages, illustrated poest’s works (Pierre Reverdy, Tristan Tzara, etc.). In 1912, Juan Gris participated in the Salon des Indépendants with the canvas Hommage à Picasso ; Guillaume Apollinaire characterized the work as « the expression of full Cubism ». The same year he participated in the Cubist exhibition at the Dalmau Galleries in Barcelona, then in the exhibition of the Section d’Or at La Béotie Gallery in Paris. In 1913, the artist signed a contract with the art dealer Henri Kahnweiler.
He became friend with Henri Matisse in 1914. After World War I, the art of Juan Gris drew near the tenants of the Esprit Nouveau and the Purist movement (Le Corbusier, Amédée Ozenfant). In 1922, the painter designed the theatre set and costumes for the Russian ballets of Diaghilev. In 1923, important exhibitions of his work were organized at the Simon Gallery in Paris and at the Flechtheim Gallery in Berlin ; this last gallery exhibited his work again two years later in Dusseldorf. He was internationally renowned but he’s health rapidly declined. Victim of uraemia, Juan Gris was only 40 when he brutally died in 1927.