José Victoriano González Pérez, known worldwide as Juan Gris, was born in Madrid on the 23rd March 1887. His father, Gregorio González, was a well known paper manufacturer, married to Isabel Pérez, with whom he had fourteen children. Juan Gris was number thirteen. He studied in good schools until his keenness for and ease of drawing led him to take classes in distinct schools of art. The academic style and rigidity led José to give up and follow the channels of traditional painting.
Guitarra ante el Mar
After the death of his father, Juan Gris travelled to París with the idea of achieving a brilliant artistic carreer. He was admitted to the famous “Bateau Lavoir” together with other astists like Picasso. After a few years of financial and emotional problems, his son Jorge was born, who was educated by Gris´ sister in Spain. In 1910, Juan Gris began to devote himself totally to painting. The influences of Cézanne, Picasso and Braque instilled in him the cubist style which was to make him famous throughout the world.
He began with grey toned pictures, which changed by the middle of the decade – 1915 – to colorist pictures with collages which gave his works originality within cubism. By this time he knew Josette, his partner for life. During this period he painted his most colorist pictures: “Violin and Glass”, “The Bullfighter”, “Guitar on a Chair”….
El sifón, 1913
He began to be known within the art world, but legal problems deterred him from leaving France in order to set up exhibitions outside the Gaul country. The increasing number of contracts and work raised his artistic and economic situation, and in 1922, he moved his studio from the “Bateau Lavoir” to Boulogne-sur-Seine. The reason for this was his delicate health, having complained of severe athsma attacks, and doctors had recommended a warmer and sunnier climate.
It was really not until 1924 that Juan Gris entered the nucleus of the great artists. In that year his paintings began to be valued as great works of art, and he created his best known works, like “Woman with a Basket”, “The Red Book”, “The Blue Tablecloth” and “Woman at a Window”. But his happiness didn´t last long, as he died from an acute athsma attack on the 11th May 1927. At only 40 years of age, one of the great artists of the 20th century disappeared. We have no option but to imagine the amount of talent and works he could not leave during his life.
Violín y guitarra, 1913
In 1913, after spending a few years in Paris, Juan Gris experienced an evolution in his painting. His dedication was already exclusive and his illustrative activity almost finished. In this still life we can see the treatment of the planes, interlaced with lines (not only with colors) which join with the other subjects: wall, tablecloth,… The cubist forms of the guitar and the violin unify these subjects harmoniously with the other elements of the composition.
Retrato de Picasso, 1912