Juan Gris, famous for fracturing Picasso, gets a Google Doodle


Juan Gris, recipient of a Google Doodle on the 125th anniversary of his birth, was a Cubist painter who was a legend in his own right. But he seems to have rubbed another legend -- Pablo Picasso -- the wrong way.

Gris was a minor player in the art world before he went to France. He was an engineering student in Madrid, took painting lessons and created humorous drawings for local newspapers.

But in 1906, he left the country for a French tenement -- a “gloomy heap” that was in the midst of a transformation into an artists enclave.

Evolution of the Google Doodle

The Bateau-Lavoir was a “dark and dirty premises made of beams and planks that had all the appearance of scrap,” according to one art website. The place creaked and trembled on stormy days. But around 1904, artists including Gris, Picasso, Max Jacob and Pabo Gargallo took up residence, and regular visitors to the Bateau-Lavoir included Henri Matisse and Amedeo Modigliani and writers Jean Cocteau and Gertrude Stein.

In Picasso’s or Gris’ studios and neighborhood cafes, passionate discussions of Cubism and the arts took place night and day. And sometimes these artistic geniuses got on one another’s nerves. “The relations between so many different kinds of temperament was not always idyllic,” the Atlantis International site notes.

In “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas,” Gertrude Stein wrote: “Juan Gris was the only person whom Picasso wished away. The relation between them was just that.”

But, as the Tate Museum notes, Gris was “Picasso’s friend and neighbor.” Other sources say Gris thought of him as a teacher. Gris, indeed, followed the development of the Cubist style and eventually made it his own. He created an “Homage to Picasso,” which he exhibited in 1912.

In his portrait of Picasso, he “paid homage to the founder of Cubism by fracturing Picasso’s head, neck, and upper torso into various planes, shapes, and contours,” says the Art Institute of Chicago.

It was this homage that established him as a great artist.

In Mary Ann Caws’ book “Pablo Picasso,” she tells of Stein saying to Picasso after Gris had died -- at age 40 -- “You never realized his meaning because you did not have it.” Picasso was said to have replied: “You know very well that I did.”

Gris’ work was noted “for its classical purity and lucidity,” according to the Tate Museum. It calls him, along with Picasso and Georges Braque, one of the first and greatest exponents of the Cubist idiom in painting.


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