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Nature morte



Juan Gris

Currently not on display
Acquired in 1958
Inventory number 134

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The Spanish artist Juan Gris composed this painting from disparate elements. Some of them can be recognized by their shape as objects or fragments of objects, while others are abstract. All the shapes, both the recognizable and the abstract shapes, are completely equal in the composition and the work has been composed more or less symmetrically. The top corners are the same colour, as are the bottom corners. The ochre coloured planes to the left and right of the centre have been divided in a balanced way. The shapes have been painted as evenly as possible and there are no differences in colour within a plane and there are no clearly visible brushstrokes.

In 'Nature morte' the emphasis is on the planes and flat surface and there is no suggestion of depth. The starting points of synthetic Cubism, the second stage of Cubism, are clearly visible in this work and fragments from reality are joined together on the canvas to create a new whole. This painting by Gris has been created with a great deal of thought using principles such as symmetry transformations, reflective symmetry and ”shape rhyme”. In terms of shape, the opening in the glass corresponds to the hole in the guitar, an example of shape rhyme, but in terms of colour they are opposite. There is also colour reversal in the bottom of the jug. Shape rhyme occurs again in the contours of the jug, which is the same shape as the guitar. These sorts of curves also occur in the bottom edge of the manuscript paper and in the outlines of the abstract planes at the bottom right.

Gris was more of an architect than a painter in the composition of his paintings and his training as an engineer probably played a role in this. When Braque said “I can turn a bottle into a cylinder when I am painting,” Gris answered, “I can turn a cylinder into a bottle when I am painting.” They often painted the same objects, such as a musical instrument, a pipe, bottle, or bowl of fruit, but these objects had a different significance for each of them. For Braque they were familiar objects from his environment, while for Gris they were the concrete expression of abstract forms. Their comments illustrate the essential difference in their work.