Juan Gris
Still Life with Guitar 1924

Artwork details

Juan Gris 1887–1927
Still Life with Guitar
Nature morte à la guitare
Date 1924
Medium Gouache on paper
Dimensions Image: 197 x 155 mm
support: 236 x 184 mm
frame: 416 x 338 x 33 mm
Acquisition Bequeathed by Elly Kahnweiler 1991 to form part of the gift of Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler, accessioned 1994
Not on display


Bequeathed by Elly Kahnweiler 1991 to form part of the gift of Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler and accessioned 1994

This text discusses three works on paper, Pipe and Domino 1924 (T06812), Bowl of Fruit 1924 (T06813) and Still Life, Guitar and Carafe 1924 (T06815).

By 1924, Gris had achieved prominence with both the public and the avant-garde and was beginning to enjoy considerable commercial success. His reputation was additionally enhanced that year by the success of a lecture titled 'On the Possibilities of Painting' which he delivered to students at the Sorbonne university in Paris. This was subsequently published and translated into English, Spanish and German (Kahnweiler, pp.139-44). In it Gris described painting as 'a sort of flat, coloured architecture' (Kahnweiler, p.142), a conception reflected in the structure of the small gouaches made that year, Pipe and Domino 1924 (T06812), Bowl of Fruit 1924 (T06813) and Still Life, Guitar and Carafe 1924 (T06815).

The colours used in these works are mostly warm browns, greens and greys, and the paintings represent tabletop scenes with a small number of domestic objects, alongside fruit, musical instruments and games. Art historian Christopher Green has commented that Gris' still-lives from this period 'can often be seen as highly conventionalised pictorial dramas frozen into the immobility of tableaux, where the characters are objects and the dramatis personae are restricted to a few easily recognised character types established by tradition.' (Green, p.156.) Although none of the gouaches appears to relate to a specific oil painting of the time, the modesty of all three works in size and medium suggests they may have been made as preliminary explorations of formal ideas.

Visual reflections and rhymes are abundant in all three paintings. The bulbous body of the carafe in Bowl of Fruit echoes both the apple in the centre and the circular rim of the glass on the right, while the geometrical edges of the fruit bowl itself seem to reverberate across the folds of the tablecloth. In Pipe and Domino the spots of the domino, the bowl of the pipe and the rim of the small dish constitute an expanding series of circles. In Still Life, Guitar and Carafe, the echoing ovals of the mouth of the carafe and the opening of the guitar offset the linear patterns of the sheet music and guitar strings. In addition a deliberate spatial contradiction allows the fruit to nestle in the curve of the guitar as if in a fruit bowl, creating a sensory link between vision, taste and sound.

Further reading:
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Juan Gris: His Life and Work, translated by Douglas Cooper, London 1947
Douglas Cooper, Juan Gris: Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work, Paris 1977
Christopher Green, Juan Gris, exhibition catalogue, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1992

Sophie Howarth
June 2000

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