Juan Gris at the BMA

So I’d like to talk about two underappreciated cubists-Gorges Braque and Juan Gris. Both of whom, I think, did more interesting things with cubism than Picasso did. I’ll start with this post on a Juan Gris in the BMA.

Juan Gris, The Painter's Window. BMA, Baltimore.

The first striking thing about this work is the title. Given a window, we’re set up to expect a view from the window, maybe a landscape like David’s View of The Luxembourg Gardens. Instead, what we’re given is a still life containing objects that are very typical of Cubist still lives-guitars, a pipe, apples. Now because there’s no visible artwork in the painting but there is a palette, it seems that what is being depicted is the painter’s “window on the world”. Now what’s paticularly notable here are the only rounded shapes-the pears. They seem to resemble the fruit in a Cezanne still life. This unravels the narrative of the painting-how Cezanne’s discoveries demanded that Gris adopt this new cubist lens on the world and how a still-life can be a “window on the world”-or at least how one painter viewed it. It’s also striking that at least Gris was attempting to take Cubism beyond a “parlor trick” and attempt to use it to convey a narrative about artistic ideas.

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