José Victoriano González (Madrid, 1887 - Paris, 1927), who went under the pseudonym “Juan Gris”, was a key figure in the gestation and evolution of the Cubist movement. His work focused on a reworking of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque's analytical and hermetic Cubism, whereby instead of Cubism being an episode and turning point, as it was for Picasso and Braque, for Gris it was the axis in which his work rotated around. Gris devoted his brief life to the construction of a new art form that surely led him to rediscover the pictorial qualities of ancient art, thus gaining an understanding of the classical traditions of French painting.
Jean Fouquet, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Camille Corot, Georges Pierre Seurat and Paul Cézanne represented a paradigm for employing the notions of construction, geometry, order, measurement and simplicity. These were the characteristics that Gris looked to apply to Cubism - systematising and codifying a new language in his painting. Today his output is seen as a significant landmark in the history of avant-garde art.
Despite the huge relevance of Gris' work, his artistic merit has been belatedly recognised and the collections of the Spanish State did not include any of his work until 1977; Guitarra ante el mar (1925) was the first of Gris' works to become part of these collections. In the same year an individual Juan Gris exhibition was held in Spain, in the Galería Theo, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Eight years later, his first institutional exhibition in Spain was held, in the halls of the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid.
In May 1988, the El Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía began its collections with the contents from the Museo Español de Arte Contemporáneo, made up of around eight thousand pieces. Over time, the Museo added to the Gris works already received with new acquisitions, forming part of the total collection of works exhibited in this exhibition: Juan Gris 1887-1927. Obras de la colección del Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Works from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection).
The exhibit comprises fourteen paintings belonging to the Museo: Violín y guitarra (1913), La botella de anís (1914), Las uvas (Naturaleza muerta con frutero y periódico) (1916), El violín (1916), Retrato de Josette (1916), Jarra y vaso (1916), La botella de vino (1918), El molinillo de café (1920); Garrafa y libro (1920), La ventana abierta (1921), El libro de música (1922), La guitarra con incrustaciones (1925), La guitarra ante el mar (1925) and La mesa del músico (1926).
It is worth noting that Retrato de Josette and Violín y guitarra has joined the collection as a result of Douglas Cooper's bequest, while the rest have come from institutional acquisitions, with the last being La botella de anís in December 2000.
This exhibition represents the first time Juan Gris works in their entirety belonging to the Museo Reina Sofía have been exhibited; they are also joined by four drawings and three illustrated books in addition to ten pictures and ten drawings belonging to Telefónica, loaned especially for this exhibit.
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