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Juan Gris: The Third Cubist

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Incorporating newsprint and advertisements into his work and refining the cubist vocabulary into his own instantly recognizable visual language, the Spanish painter, and illustrator, Juan Gris, is celebrated as “the third cubist”, who built upon the foundations early Cubism and steered the movement in new directions.

Born Jose Victoriano (Carmelo Carlos) Gonzalez-Perez in Madrid on March 23, 1887. Gris studied mechanical drawing at the Escuela de Artes y Manufacturas in Madrid from 1902 to 1904. During this time, he contributed to local periodicals. From 1904 to 1905, he studied painting with the academic artist Jose Maria Carbonero. In 1906, he moves to Paris, where he lived for the most of the remainder of his life.

During his early years in Paris, he worked as an illustrator and satirical cartoonist for a variety of magazines and periodicals. He settled in the Montmartre artist commune Bateau Lavoir, where he met Picasso, Braque, Matisse, and the American writer Gertrude Stein, who would become a lifelong admirer and collector of his work. Gris began to paint seriously in 1910 and by 1912 he had developed a personal Cubist style.

Gris exhibited for the first time in 1912 at the Salon des Independents in Paris, Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona, Der Sturm gallery in Berlin, the Salon de la Societe Normande de Peinture Moderne in Rouen, and the Salon de la Section d’Or in Paris. That same year, D.H. Kahnweiler signed him to a contract that gave Kahnweiler exclusive rights to the artist’s work.

In 1914, Gris became a good friend of Henri Matisse and over the next several years formed closed relationships with Jacques Lipchitz and Jean Metzinger. After Kahnweiler fled Paris at the outbreak of World War I, Gris signed a contract with Leonce Rosenberg in 1916. His first major solo show was held at Rosenberg’s Galerie l’Effort Moderne in Paris in 1919. The following year Kahnweiler returned and once again became Gris’s dealer.

In 1922, Gris first designed ballet sets and costumes for Sergei Diaghilev. Gris articulated most of his aesthetic theories during 1924 and 1925. He delivered his definitive lecture, “Des possibilities de la Peinture”, at the Sorbonne in 1924. Major Gris exhibitions took place at the Galerie Simon in Paris and the Galerie Flechtheim in Berlin in 1923 and at the Galerie Flechtheim in Dusseldorf in 1925.

As his health declined, Juan Gris made frequent visits to the south of France. He died in Boulogne-sur-Seine on May 11, 1927.


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