The exhibition the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía dedicates to Juan Gris (Madrid, 1887 - Boulogne-sur-Seine, France, 1927) bears witness to the diverse approaches in his output. It highlights those aspects that have remained in the background, for instance his colourist painting, his early years within Cubism and his drawings, considered by the artist himself to be equal to his paintings. This exhibit is in addition to two previous ones dedicated to the artist by the Museo; one, in 2001 Juan Gris 1887-1927 and the other in 2003, Juan Gris dibujante de prensa (Juan Gris the Illustrator).
Gris, an intellectual and complex character, stands out for his huge artistic output, despite his short life. He arrives in Paris in 1906 after studying at the Escuela de Artes y Oficios (School of Arts and Crafts) in Madrid. At the beginning he draws for diverse satirical magazines, though his chosen vocation as a painter imposes itself over this forced dedication to graphic illustration. In 1908 he meets Kahnweiler, who would later become his art dealer and close friend, and rapidly develops his personal and independent style, which is also deeply-rooted in the aesthetics of the movement headed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.
Although the personal relationships between the three greats of Cubism are complex, each play their part in the movement as Gris discovers how to find his place, consolidating the common principles in Cubist aesthetics and his own application of them. In contrast to Braque and Picasso, Gris never fully uses a neutral palette, opting instead for colour. In his later work, the compositional system he uses, derived from collage techniques, is based on a series of overlapping triangular, vertical and horizontal forms. Following the first stage of militancy in analytic Cubism, Gris begins his synthetic phase, in which the previous combinations of form and changing perspectives are replaced with the use of surfaces superimposed with colour and texture.
Gris develops his compositional processes differently from the majority of artists - his “deductive method” approaches abstract structures that are only identified as real objects at the last moment. Another of Gris' approaches is the representation of volume through the use of isometric perspectives and images that are cut out on top of his own negative impressions, thus achieving more dramatic compositions than Picasso or Braque.