Juan Gris

(1887—1927) Spanish painter

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Spanish painter, who was a pioneer of synthetic cubism.

The son of a businessman, Gris studied at the School of Industrial and Fine Arts in Madrid before moving at the age of nineteen to Paris, where he arrived with a mere sixteen francs, his father having gone bankrupt. He lived in the same house in Montmartre as his compatriot Picasso, supporting himself by producing satirical drawings for periodicals. Around 1910 he began painting seriously, adopting the cubist style of Picasso and Braque in still lifes and protraits of friends. Within two years he was producing important work and exhibiting in Paris and Barcelona. He was, however, less interested in the analytical treatment of form, which was the essential quality of cubism at that time. Instead of reducing objects to geometric shapes he tended to begin with simple fragmented shapes and build up a picture from them, using brighter more decorative colour and collage. Gris thus bears much of the credit for the development of cubism's second stage – synthetic cubism.

Unlike Picasso, Gris continued to develop the cubist style throughout his artistic life. The two painters also differed in their approach to painting: Gris left nothing to improvisation but imposed severe almost scientific disciplines upon his works. In 1920 Gris had a serious attack of pleurisy and suffered from increasingly bad health until his death seven years later at the age of forty. His paintings in the 1920s are characterized by softer more descriptive lines and occasionally lack the vitality of his earlier work. Gris also created a large number of book illustrations, designed stage sets and costumes for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in the early 1920s, and produced writings on the theory of cubism.

Subjects: Art.

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