Juan Gris, originally Jose Victoriano Gonzalez-Perez (March 23, 1887 – May 11, 1927), was a Spanish sculptor and painter, who operated from France for the most of his life. Gris was a student of Mechanical Drawing (1902-1904) at the Escuela de Artes y Manufacturas, Madrid. During this period, he drew humorous illustrations for local journals. During 1904-1905, he learnt painting from José Maria Carbonero, an ‘Academic’ artist. While he continued to paint for local periodicals, it was only in 1910 that he started taking his painting seriously, and had developed his own unique style of ‘Synthetic Cubism’ by 1912. Two of his works in this period include ‘Guitar and Flowers’ (1912) and the ‘Portrait of Picasso’ (1912), while “The Sunblind” marked 1914.
Though Gris was associated with Pablo Picasso and the other artists following ‘Cubism,’ his creations were however, distinct from the other Cubist artists. Strict geometric patterns characterized most of Juan’s works. He also used paper collage in his works, as evident in his “The Sunblind.” Exacting and explicit are the words that can come close to describing Gris’ artworks. In contrast to Picasso’s and Braque’s ‘Cubist’ works, which were monochromatic, the use of vivid colors, done in a harmonious tone, characterized Gris’ style. One of his most famous works is “The Sunblind” (1914), a ‘Synthetic Cubist’ gouache, collage, chalk, and charcoal on canvas work, measuring 92.1 cm x 72.7 cm. Juan Gris used crayons generously to create this piece of art.
The beginning of ‘Synthetic Cubism’ is marked by the usage of collage or ‘papier colle,’ along with other materials, on a multicolored surface. In this style of creative art, the canvas surface is treated as opaque, which is accentuated by other materials applied to make the imagery stand out from the surface. “The Sunblind” is a beautiful piece of art depicting light slipping through a venetian blind. The creation also shows the shadow of a wine glass being cast on the table lying nearby. This beautiful collage depicts painted blinds along with a real newspaper. The newspaper named Le Socialiste des Pyrénées-Orientales was a local newspaper from Collioure, a place where Gris stayed in 1914. The depiction of the newspaper may possibly be reflective of his political preferences.
Juan Gris created only one sculpture in his life, which was a painted plaster named ‘Harlequin,’ in 1917. During 1917 to 1920, Gris played with objects and shadows in his work and used complex textures and bright colors in his paintings, which included ‘the Fruit Bowl on Checkered Cloth’ (1917). His works therefore became more and more complicated. His paintings showed that Juan was more interested in maintaining ‘Realism’ in his ‘Cubist’ art works, more than both, Picasso and Braque did. The Spanish painter died in 1927, in Boulogne-sur-Seine (Paris), when he was just forty years of age, but not before creating a niche for himself in the ‘Cubist’ genre and creating a masterpiece like “The Sunblind.” “The Sunblind” is presently displayed at Tate Gallery, London.