Bold, Minimal and Beautiful: The Sleek Cubist Style of Juan Gris
The Spanish artist Juan Gris was an innovator, combining the austere, monochromatic style of early Cubism with the sinuous lines of Art Nouveau.
The result is an incandescent and distinctive body of work, one that probes the fabric of visible experience and reflects the intricacies and nuances of the modern age.
Le Canigou shows a grey guitar laid across a tabletop. An open book sits next to it, its pages overhanging the table edge. A bowl of fruit and a drinking vessel — a robust wine glass? — complete the still life.
If you let your eyes roll over the area where the open book is shown, you’ll notice how the two pages of the book are painted in complimentary tones of light blue and cream. The line that runs down the centre of the book extends into neighbouring objects, suggesting a fret on the guitar above and a fold in the tablecloth below.
The same line extends to the very top and bottom of the painting, as if the whole image could be a window that has been half opened, casting back tangled reflections of the room and views from the outside world at the same time.
And so we begin to get an idea of how the image is made — how the “rules” of its construction work. Patterns, resonances and correlations are sought out to build up the infrastructure of the picture. Hence, a painting like this represents aspects of the real world, but just as much it is an aesthetic proposition in its own right.
The title of the painting — Le Canigou — refers to a mountain located in the Pyrenees of southern France. In the image, the ridges of Le Canigou can be seen as a band of white at the rear, set against a blue sky.
Now notice how the corner of the table pushes into the peak of the mountain, more than echoing…