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

Nature morte à la théière

Juan Gris (1887-1927)
Nature morte à la théière
signed and dated 'Juan Gris 1916' (lower right)
pencil on paper
15 3/8 x 11 1/8 in. (39 x 28.2 cm.)
Drawn in 1916
Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris.
Douglas Cooper, Argilliers, by whom acquired from the above in 1938.
William McCarty Cooper, London & Los Angeles, by descent from the above.
John McCarty, by descent from the above; his sale, Christie’s, New York, 4 November 2010, lot 121.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Bern, Kunstmuseum, Juan Gris, 1955, no. 134.
Basel, Kunstmuseum, Douglas Cooper und die Meister des Kubismus, November 1987 - March 1988, no. 16 (illustrated p. 86); this exhibition later travelled to London, Tate Gallery.
Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts, Picasso, Braque, Léger, Gris, Douglas Cooper Collecting Cubism, October - December 1990, no. 19; this exhibition later travelled to Los Angeles, County Museum of Art.

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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay

Nature morte à la théière is a still life by the artist considered the third 'true' Cubist, Juan Gris, dating from one of the apogees of his career. This picture was formerly in the collection of the legendary art historian Douglas Cooper, who was responsible for the catalogue raisonné of Gris' work and who also translated the dealer Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler's monograph on him. He bought this work from the Galerie Jeanne Bucher in 1938, during the incredible spending spree which lasted almost a decade, throughout the 1930s, and which saw him using his inheritance to assemble one of the most impressive groupings of works by the Cubists ever, mainly focussing on Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger and Gris. Nature morte à la théière has even featured in exhibitions dedicated to Cooper's collecting habits.

When Nature morte à la théière was executed in 1916, Gris had been going through a minor revolution in his art. During the previous years, once he had arrived at a Cubist idiom through his own tireless researches, he had created pictures that had a marked complexity. Now, he began to remove some of the clutter from his compositions, seeking a new clarity. As he Kahnweiler the previous year, 'I think I have really made progress recently and that my pictures begin to have a unity which they have lacked till now. They are no longer those inventories of objects which used to depress me so much' (Gris, quoted in C. Green, Juan Gris, London and New Haven, 1992, p. 51). That unity is clearly present in Nature morte à la théière, which shows just a couple of objects in a manner that combines the pared-back observations of his pre-Cubist works with the diagonal planes of shading that are an extension of the techniques he used in his oil paintings. Here, these fields of shade have been rendered with an incredible variety of density, revealing the meticulous draughtsmanship at work while also adding to the general dynamism of the composition. At the same time, it adds to the sense of luminosity in the picture, allowing the areas of the sheet which have been left in reserve to glow through their contrast with the shaded parts. Looking at Nature morte à la théière, it becomes clear why Kahnweiler wrote, of the works of around 1916, that:

'Gris finally gave up presenting the beholder with a great variety of information (acquired by empirical observation) about the objects which he displayed. He now offered a synthesis: that is to say, he packed his knowledge into one significant form, a single emblem. True conceptual painting was born' (D.-H. Kahnweiler, Juan Gris, His Life and Work, trans. D. Cooper, London, 1969, p. 126).

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