In February of 1920, when D.H. Kahnweiler returned to Paris from his wartime exile, he encountered Gris' most recent paintings. "I had left behind a young painter whose works I like," he later recalled, "but I returned to find a master" (quoted in J. T. Soby, Juan Gris, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, p. 93). Gris quickly reinstated Kahnweiler as one of his dealers, but the painter fell ill with pleurisy a few months later and was only able to resume painting again in September, producing works including Grappe de raisin et poire and selling them in Kahnweiler's new Galerie Simon.
The present work is notable for its use of sand and painted simulated wood grain, the only details given to the colored planes, which are a legacy of synthetic Cubism and the papiers collées of Braque and Picasso. However, Gris further develops this object centered, planar approach to painting by rendering the transitional space between objects as smooth, coherent outlines. These simplified, overlapping shapes form a balanced composition that typifies the clarion call of a "return to order" that swept through the European avant-garde in response to the First World War. Like the other artists who congregated around Léonce Rosenberg's Galerie de l'Effort Moderne during and shortly after the war, Gris embraced the rational proportions and humanist outlook of the classicizing tendency which in France, led by Amédée Ozenfant and Charles Jeanneret (later known as Le Corbusier), became known as L'esprit Nouveau or Purism. The painters in this group strongly favored object-oriented compositions, and although they recognized the importance of Cubism to their working method, they rejected the cubists' fragmentation and distortion of subject matter. Commenting on his work in an article that was published in Jeaneret's journal L'Esprit nouveau in 1921, Gris wrote: "I work with the elements of the intellect, with the imagination. I try to make concrete that which is abstract. I proceed from the general to the particular, by which I mean that I start with an abstraction in order to arrive at a true fact. Mine is an art of synthesis, of deduction I consider that the architectural element in painting is mathematics, the abstract side; I want to humanize it" (trans D. Cooper, reprinted in H.C. Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, Berkeley, 1968, p. 274).
Gris' selected subject matter, a still life with fruit, manifests the co-existence of his debt to Cubist experimentation and his self-alignment within the history of painting. The dramatic contrasts of dark brown, light green, and cream recall those of old master paintings, whose influence Gris readily acknowledged. He stated: "Though in my system I may depart greatly from my any form of idealistic or naturalistic art, in practice I cannot break away from the Louvre. Mine is the method of all times, the method used by the old masters: there are technical means and they remain constant" (quoted in M. Rosenthal, Juan Gris, New York, 1983, p. 159).