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Juan Gris: Profile in Collage

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[first published 23 March 2012.]

Today (23 March 2012) marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of Juan Gris, Cubist co-originator of collage and found-object art.

Juan Gris (born José Victoriano Carmelo Carlos Gonzàlez-Perez, in Madrid, Spain, 1887; died in Boulogne-sur-Seine, France, 1927) lived half his life in Paris, near Picasso and Georges Braque, and with them formed the trinity that launched Cubism. While Picasso and Braque created Cubism as an art movement, Gris spent nearly his entire career working within the style and extending its possibilities. Gris lived and breathed Cubism, so to speak.

Cubism attempted to portray its subject matter from as many viewpoints as possible:  if the subject in question was a bowl of fruit, a Cubist painting of it might show the bowl and fruit as seen simultaneously from top, bottom, sides, and back, as well as from the conventional front picture plane. These different views of the subject often coexisted apparently at random, without further unification other than the focus on a common subject.  In this sense, Cubism acted as a logical continuation of Paul Cézanne’s efforts to dissect three-dimensional subjects into combinations of pure geometric forms. Gris enthusiastically embraced this Analytic Cubism, and pushed it forward fast and far, as his portrait of Picasso shows.

Juan Gris: Portrait of Picasso (1912). Oil on canvas. Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. (Source: Wikimedia Commons; in public domain in the United States.)

Gris did not long stay within the limited, low-key, earth-toned palette favored by Braque and Picasso. He soon filled his pictures with a broad spectrum of highly saturated color, echoing the vibrancy of Cézanne’s color range.

Gris, Braque, and Picasso quickly exhausted the possibilities of Analytic Cubism (though others would continue working in the style for years afterward). They then created Synthetic Cubism, which broke through the flat plane of painting by incorporating collaged paper, fabric, and other materials into pictorial composition. Rather than relying exclusively on the illusion of depth and recession created by perspective, painting could now draw upon resources of solid form and texture to enhance its portrayal of a multidimensional world.

The Cubist “invention” of collage would have consequences far beyond enhancing pictorial realism: unintentionally, it legitimized the art of appropriation as a creative expression. Within the scope of Cubism (a relatively limited movement whose primary influence extended over two decades) was born collage, a medium of unlimited influence and possibilities. Coming into being almost at the same time, collage and film were the two great art mediums invented in the twentieth century.

Juan Gris: The Sun-Blind (1914). Collage and oil on canvas. Collection the Tate Gallery, London. (Image is in public domain in the United States.)

Reflecting an age of cinema, machines, and rapid transportation, later art styles like Italian Futurism would continue the Synthetic Cubist trend by adding movement to the pictorial mix, showing time-series views of objects in motion. Collages of objects henceforth would coexist with collages of progression through time and space.

In his last two years, Gris suffered from kidney problems, and kidney failure cut his life short at the age of forty. We can only imagine what further innovative work Juan Gris would have produced, had he been granted another forty years.

(All artwork, descriptions, & other text (except for quotations & reproductions of artwork by others) created & copyright © by Eric Edelman. All rights reserved.)
71 Comments… add one

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71 comments… add one
Julie March 27, 2012, 4:05 pm

Nice Photo! Happy WW.

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 11:15 pm

Thanks for your visit and your comment, Julie!

Verena March 27, 2012, 4:19 pm

Eric, thanks for the information on Juan Gris. The portrait of picasso is very interesting.
Thank you so much for your nice comment on my last WW Post.

Have a happy WW!


Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 11:13 pm

Thanks for your comment, Verena! It’s always a pleasure to hear from you and to visit your blog! I hope you have a great WW!

tina´s ww w/ linky March 27, 2012, 4:29 pm

great pics!

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 11:11 pm

Thanks for stopping by!

Create With Joy March 27, 2012, 5:00 pm
Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 10:51 pm

Thanks very much!

Good Listening! w/Linky! March 27, 2012, 6:27 pm

Love the collages!

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 10:18 pm

Gris was a heavy hitter in collage; no doubt about that. And I think that that’s what I enjoy most about his work. Thanks very much for your comment and your visit!

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook March 27, 2012, 6:53 pm

Very informative post, I didn’t know about this artist. I love the painting of Picasso!
Have a great week 🙂

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 10:16 pm

Thanks, Carol! I know what you mean about Picasso; there’s something for nearly everybody in one or another of his styles.

Kitchens with a twist (follows) March 27, 2012, 7:18 pm

I love cubism and these are great examples. Love the information. Thanks for hosting the hop, have a great week.

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 10:06 pm

Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comment! I’m glad you found the information worthwhile.

Brandi March 27, 2012, 7:23 pm

Oh how neat!! I never knew any of that and love the pictures 🙂


Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 10:03 pm

Thanks, Brandi! Glad you stopped by.

SavingwithSaveOne March 27, 2012, 7:24 pm

Cool Photo!

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 9:58 pm


Monica March 27, 2012, 7:56 pm

Stunning works!

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 9:55 pm

Thanks for your comment! Yes, Gris was a keeper…

Tots and Me w/linky March 27, 2012, 8:07 pm


Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 9:53 pm


New Jersey Memories March 27, 2012, 8:14 pm

I can’t say that I’m that crazy about Cubism. I was reading about Juan Gris that other day on Google when they were honoring him on his birthday. That first picture made me think of Picasso, and then I saw that a portrait. So funny!

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 9:53 pm

I never was crazy about Cubism either. Then one of my professors in college explained what its methods and goals were, and that made it a lot easier to appreciate. And among the Cubists, of course, I liked most the work of painters like Gleizes and Metzinger, who used lots of pure saturated color. But Dada and Surrealism still are most dear to my heart.

Dave Keller March 27, 2012, 8:56 pm

I love his use of color. Thanks for posting the pictures and explanation. He was a very talented artist.

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 10:50 pm

Thanks, Dave. Gris was talented indeed–pretty close to being a natural in using color. It’s tragic that his life ended so young. Thanks again for your comment and for stopping by.

momto8blog March 27, 2012, 9:45 pm

so interesting..and informative!

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 10:38 pm

Thanks very much for visiting and leaving your kind comment!

Staci @ 7 on a Shoestring March 27, 2012, 9:59 pm

I do not guess I had heard of Juan Gris before… but I do like The Sun-Blind.

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 10:35 pm

Thanks for your comment and for stopping by! Many haven’t heard of him, which was one reason why I wanted to write this post. He’s crucial to collage history.

dkaye315 March 27, 2012, 11:07 pm

It’s amazing to see works of this style – and try to understand the underlying psyche of the creative geniuses.

Eric Edelman March 27, 2012, 11:20 pm

Yes, it is. And I’ve found the work of art historians to be most helpful for this. Thanks for your comment!

jessica @peekababy March 27, 2012, 11:23 pm

Cubist art always makes me feel like I’ve been drinking, lol

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 1:01 am

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if that’s where some of the inspiration for Cubism came from! Thanks very much for your visit and your comment, Jessica!

iMaddy March 27, 2012, 11:42 pm

I don’t really understand it, but I do find it interesting.

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 1:00 am

It is interesting, Maddy. And you can understand Cubism very quickly if you think of it as a kind of artistic experiment about seeing things differently.

Cubism does two things:

1.) It tries to show objects like the geometric shapes that they resemble. For example, a pear is like a ball (or sphere) topped by a cone, the legs of a standing person are like two pairs of cylinders joined where the knees would be, a building is made to look like a cube or rectangular box, etc. But that’s just the start. Then …
2.) It takes all the surfaces of those shapes, flattens them out, and paints them as if you could see all sides of the objects at the same time (even their bottom sides).

That’s it for Cubism’s basic ideas. The rest is up to the original style of each artist.

Kathryn March 27, 2012, 11:57 pm

I especially love the portrait of Picasso; this is such amazing work!

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 12:48 am

Thanks, Kathryn. Juan Gris was one of the pivotal early Cubist painters, and I often find his work more beautiful than Picasso’s pictures from the same time period.

David March 27, 2012, 11:58 pm

Thank you for hosting this and this is my contribution:

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 12:46 am

Thanks, David! Looking forward to visiting your post.

Sukhmandir Kaur March 28, 2012, 1:20 am

I like the effect until I look closely then its difficult to find a focal point, too much like how I see with out corrective lenses 8)

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 9:12 am

Thanks for your comment. Yes, that’s it exactly: Cubist paintings weren’t meant to be looked at too closely: they’re like one of those multi-faceted movie camera lenses that were popular in the 1960s; they gave multiple images of whatever object they were aimed at, and all of those images seemed to move or shift as you looked at them. Dazzling and sometimes more than a bit dizzying!

Erika Price {Linky} March 28, 2012, 4:58 am

I love the limited colour palette and perspective in Gris’ portrait of Picasso, and it’s a shame that his work isn’t quite as well known as that of his 2 fellow artists – thanks for telling us more about him Eric!

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 9:20 am

Thanks, Erika! Yes, that’s right: like the late American comedian Rodney Dangerfield, Gris “didn’t get no respect”; or rather, he’s gotten relatively little. But he was a brilliant painter who accomplished much during a sadly shortened life, and he deserves far more than just a second look–he deserves several retrospectives and a biopic actually (could Kim Kardashian spare him some of her fifteen minutes of fame?). Thanks for your thoughtful comment (as always) and for your your lovely photography and beautiful jewellery!

caite@a lovely shore breeze March 28, 2012, 6:19 am

I am not I fan of most modern art, but I must say I find Cubism rather interesting.

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 9:06 am

Thanks for your comment! Yes, it is, even if one doesn’t feel that Cubist “experiments” always succeeded.

bethere2day **LINKY** March 28, 2012, 7:14 am

Amazing and a bit different this week 🙂

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 9:04 am

Thanks, Steve…. so is yours, to say the least!

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 9:07 am

Thanks for your visit and your comment!

Harriet March 28, 2012, 1:11 pm

I love the use of neutrals!

Have a great Wednesday!

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 10:51 pm

In common with Picasso and Braque, Gris was masterful in working from a chromatically limited palette, although he soon moved to using unrestricted color. Much of the neutral gamut you admire was consciously adopted by the Cubists from the work of Paul Cézanne. Thanks for your visit and your comment!

Cafe au lait March 28, 2012, 1:32 pm

These are beautiful. Have a great WW.

My entry.

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 9:40 pm

Thanks! Juan Gris needs to be better known. And thanks for visiting.

Vicki March 28, 2012, 1:53 pm

Different! I love different!!

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 9:45 pm

Glad you love it, Vicki! Thanks for your comment and your visit.

Simply Delicious March 28, 2012, 2:05 pm

Great post! The pics are fabulous.

Red Temptation

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 9:46 pm

Thanks, glad you like the pictures and the post. Please spread the word about Juan Gris!

Gattina March 28, 2012, 2:26 pm

Very interesting ! I was at Art school, but this painter I missed, can’t remember him.

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 10:00 pm

Many people (including many artists) have missed connecting with Gris. But they should, since Gris was crucial to the invention of collage. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Gattina!

alissa apel March 28, 2012, 2:30 pm

I really like Picasso. We have a print hanging in our bedroom. I just loved how he had different styles throughout his lifetime.

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 10:06 pm

Among the many extraordinary things about Picasso was his refusal to “stay stuck” (or be stereotyped) in one style or medium; all through his career, he continually evolved as an artist, experimenting and changing all the way to the end of his life. A rare and Protean creative spirit. Thanks for your comment, Alissa!

Stacey at RealWorldMom March 28, 2012, 5:21 pm

Very interesting composition. Happy WW!

Eric Edelman March 28, 2012, 10:43 pm

They both are! Gris was a great painter. Thanks for your comment; I hope your WW was fun!

Icar March 29, 2012, 1:56 am

great work of art,cubism at its finest!

Eric Edelman March 29, 2012, 7:50 pm

Thanks for your visit and your comment! Yes, in many ways, Juan Gris was the finest exponent of Cubism.

Samantha Lin March 29, 2012, 5:20 am

Thank you for dropping by my WW!

Your post was lovely, and I enjoyed the information about Juan Gris and Cubism. 🙂

Eric Edelman March 29, 2012, 7:48 pm

Thanks for your visit and for your kind words! I’m glad you liked the post.

NCSue March 29, 2012, 6:06 am

Thank you for visiting Wordless Wednesday at I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your photo this week! I hope to see you again soon.
Have a great week,

Eric Edelman March 29, 2012, 7:47 pm

Thanks for your comment and visit!

Samantha @ KreativeKaring March 31, 2012, 7:24 am

Wow, learn something new every day, right? This type of art work is really neat and thank you for sharing some interesting facts about Juan Gris! I can’t imagine what other works he would have come out with had he not died at such at an early age.

Thanks for stopping by kreativekaring and linking up for wordless wednesday! I’m so happy to finally have the internet back again in our new apartment! =D
Hope you have a great weekend!


Eric Edelman March 31, 2012, 3:07 pm

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your kind comment, Samantha!

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