Juan Gris (1887-1927)
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Juan Gris (1887-1927)

Arlequin et Pierrot

Juan Gris (1887-1927)
Arlequin et Pierrot
signed and dated 'Juan Gris 24' (upper left)
oil on canvas
16 1/8 x 10 5/8 in. (41 x 27 cm.)
Painted in February-August 1924
Galerie Simon, Paris (no. 8493), by whom acquired directly from the artist in 1924.
Jacques Guérin, Paris.
R. Mendès-France, Paris.
Paul bey Adamini Frasheri, Geneva.
Mr and Mrs Samuel J. Zacks, Toronto.
Waddington Galleries, London.
Acquired from the above by the father of the present owners in 1973.
D.H. Kahnweiler, Juan Gris, His Life and Work, London, 1947, (illustrated pl. 82).
J.A. Gaya Nuño, Juan Gris, Barcelona, 1974, no. 461 (illustrated p. 224).
D. Cooper, Juan Gris, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, vol. II, Paris, 1977, no. 465 (illustrated p. 290).
J.M. Bonet & C. d'Ors Führer, Juan Gris, Madrid, 1984, no. 43 (illustrated p. 91).
Toronto, Art Gallery of Toronto, A Selection from the Ayala and Sam Zacks Collection, 1956, no. 40; this exhibition later travelled to Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Winnipeg, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Minneapolis, Walker Art Centre, Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery, San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Pasadena, Pasadena Art Museum and Montreal, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Madrid, Sala Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Juan Gris, 1887-1927, September - November 1985, no. 87 (illustrated p. 280).
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Lot Essay

Gris' later years, before his tragic and premature death at the age of 40, were characterised by intense artistic activity during which time he created what Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler referred to as 'the crowning achievements of his oeuvre' (in exh. cat. L'Atelier de Juan Gris, Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, 1957), a favourable opinion shared by such luminaries as Douglas Cooper, Curt Valentin and Gertrude Stein. In 1923 Kahnweiler had held a major exhibition of Gris' work at his Galerie Simon in Paris, which was well received. In the following year the artist added to his growing reputation by delivering a notable lecture at the Sorbonne, Des Possibilites de la Peinture, which was shortly thereafter widely reprinted and translated into English, German and Spanish.

The figures of both Pierrot and Arlequin appear in Gris' oeuvre with regularity from 1917; in fact between 1918 and mid-1922, they account for all but one of Gris' 15 completed figure compositions. While Gris appears to switch seemingly indiscriminately between the two characters of the Commedia dell'Arte, the present work is a rare occurrence of both characters featuring in the same composition. In the large scale Les trois masques of 1923, Gris depicts three costumed characters seated together at a table, but these are more evocations of type than depictions of the human figures behind the masks.

In Picasso's oeuvre, of course, the Arlequin is strongly identified with the artist himself, while images of friends such as Max Jacob or Guillaume Apollinaire fulfil the role of Pierrot. Indeed in the present work, Arlequin in the background is portrayed with undeniably Picasso-like facial features, while the thick-set Pierrot could be identified as Gris himself. 'It was usual to see the writer or the artist in Pierrot and Harlequin. They had come to represent opposing notions of creative personality. The mercurial inventiveness and agile trickery of Harlequin was opposed to the "pure", direct sensitivity of Pierrot: the one cruel, the other vulnerable, but both equally impulsive and child-like' (C. Green, 'Figures of Artifice and Substance', in exh. cat. Juan Gris, London, 1992, p. 134). If this interpretation of Arlequin et Pierrot is justified, the painting certainly displays Gris' ambiguous feelings towards his one-time Cubist colleague. Throughout the early 1920s, Gris had frequent misunderstandings with both Picasso and Braque, often accusing them of unfair criticism of his work. This was also the time that both Picasso and Braque began definitively to abandon the tenets of Cubism, leaving only Gris true to its ideals. Furthermore Picasso had, in Gris' eyes, used Gris' ongoing Cubist aesthetic against him in taking a commission for Diaghilev's Ballets russes away from him in April 1921. Despite these perceived slights against him, however, Gris' reverence for Picasso's work remained undiminished and one can see, in the pose of the figures in Arlequin et Pierrot, the influence and ongoing close, if strained, friendship between the two artists.

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