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Juan Gris (1887-1927)
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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE NEW YORK COLLECTION
Juan Gris (1887-1927)

Pommes et citrons

Details
Juan Gris (1887-1927)
Pommes et citrons
signed and dated 'Juan Gris. 26' (lower right)
oil on canvas
13 x 16 ¼ in. (33 x 41 cm.)
Painted in November-December 1926
Provenance
(possibly) Galerie Simon (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Paris.
Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York (by 1944).
James Johnson Sweeney, New York and Houston.
Perls Galleries, New York (acquired from the above, December 1967).
Howard S. Levin, Short Hills, New Jersey (acquired from the above, April 1968).
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London (by 1973).
Fabian Fine Art, Cape Town, South Africa (by 1974).
Anon. sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York, 26 May 1976, lot 85.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
Literature
D. Cooper and M. Potter, Juan Gris: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1977, vol. II, p. 412, no. 592 (illustrated, p. 413).
D. Cooper and M. Potter, Juan Gris: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 2014, vol. II, p. 867, no. 592 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited
(possibly) New York, Marie Harriman Gallery, Juan Gris, February 1932, no. 19 (titled Still Life: Red Cloth with Fruit).
New York, Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), Juan Gris, March-April 1944, no. 28 (titled Still Life).
Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, circa 1961 (on loan).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Selected European Masters of the 19th and 20th Centuries, summer 1973, p. 59, no. 29 (illustrated in color, p. 58; titled Nature morte aux poires et citrons).
Cape Town, South African National Gallery, Director’s Choice, 1974, p. 2 (titled Still Life with Pears and Lemon).

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Lot Essay

Pommes et citrons is a Cubist still life, but of a different sort than those Gris, Pablo Picasso, and others had painted during the high analytic phase of the movement prior to the First World War. The fundamental planar structures are present, but serve mainly to frame and position within space the amalgam of objects, grouped together at the center of this composition, and in contrast to the contours of the tabletop. Gris has here declined to analyze form; instead he has depicted objects as austere and idealized representations. The artist was in part responding to the neo-classical revival following the First World War, the “return to order.” He nevertheless inflected his forms with inventiveness and idiosyncrasy; his chief interest was to foment a free plasticity, a congenial play among interacting forms, as an expression of visual creativity akin to the sense of fantasy in lyric poetry.
Gris called his method “deductive,” as he wrote in 1923 for the dealer Alfred Flechtheim’s journal Der Querschnitt, “because the pictorial relationships between the coloured forms suggest to me certain private relationships between the elements of an imaginary reality...The quality or dimensions of a form or a colour suggest to me the appellation or the adjective for the object...If I particularize pictorial relationships to the point of representing objects, it is in order to prevent the combination of coloured forms suggesting to [the spectator] a reality which I have not intended...It is not picture ‘X’ which manages to correspond with my subject, but subject ‘X’ which manages to correspond with my picture” (quoted in “Notes on my Painting,” D.-H. Kahnweiler, Juan Gris: His Life and Work, New York, 1969, p. 194). The use of contrasts, in color and form, in conjunction with unexpected dislocations, was key to Gris’ compositional strategy for representing objects in space.
Gris’ career by the mid-1920s was in full swing. A major exhibition of his work at Kahnweiler’s Galerie Simon in 1923 was well received. In the following year, the artist added to his growing reputation by delivering a notable lecture at the Sorbonne, Des possibilités de la peinture, thereafter published and translated into English, German, and Spanish. In April 1925, Flechtheim exhibited a of selection works painted since 1920 in his Dusseldorf gallery. Later that year the important collectors Alphonse Kahn and Dr. G.F. Reber began to acquire Gris’s recent canvases. The artist at long last experienced an enjoyable degree of financial security, and even turned down the offer of a contract from Paul Rosenberg, Picasso’s dealer.
Painted in 1926, the present still life was previously in the collection of the celebrated art historian, curator and museum director James Johnson Sweeney. A tireless promoter of the latest innovations in modern art, Sweeney became a curator at The Museum of Modern Art in New York under Alfred Barr in 1935. He later became director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, overseeing the construction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s renowned modernist landmark, and adding important works by Gris, Constantin Brancusi and Paul Cézanne to the museum’s collection.
“Gris continued to build edifices of pleasure to the end of his life,” Christopher Green has written. “In his last two or three years Gris added to this range of pleasurable still-life pictures which generate rather different connotations. These objects include those that I call objects of subjectivity” (Juan Gris, New Haven, 1992, p. 158). In early 1927, only months before his death, Gris contributed a statement to an anthology of modern painting which Maurice Raynal was preparing. “Today, at the age of forty, I believe I am approaching a new period of self-expression, of pictorial expression, of picture-language; a well-thought-out and well-blended unity. In short, the synthetic period has followed the analytical one” (quoted in D.-H. Kahnweiler, op. cit., p. 204).
Gertrude Stein had admired and collected Gris’s art for at least a decade when she penned an appreciative text to accompany eighteen reproductions of the painter’s work in the late 1924 edition of Margaret Anderson’s influential Little Review. “Juan Gris is a Spaniard. He says his pictures remind him of the School of Fontainebleau. In this he makes no mistake, but he never does make a mistake...He is a perfect painter” (Little Review, Chicago, autumn 1924-winter 1925, p. 16).

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