Van Gogh •
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Juan Gris, an outstanding Cubist painter, (born José Vittoriano Gonzales, in Madrid), studied
engineering at the School of Arts and Sciences, and amused himself (meanwhile) by drawing caricatures in his notebook.
In 1906, after some years of contributing humorous sketches to two Madrid papers, Gris went to Paris and found lodgings in the Bateau-Lavoir among the artists and writers who were to make artistic and literary history. He worked as a graphic artist until 1910 and then began to paint in watercolors. By 1911 he had begun to paint in oils, in the Analytical Cubist manner of his friends Braque and Picasso. These earliest works show a highly original use of color. His prismatic, floating compositions seem icy cold and steel-like. In 1912 Gris began to include lettering in his paintings, as Braque had done before him, and then, in 1913, he moved from Analytical to Synthetic Cubism, which enriched his use of color and form as well as his contrast of tonality and texture.
Synthetic Cubism, to which he remained faithful throughout his brief career, gave
Gris the opportunity to exploit his predilection for color. His colors, both warm and rich and rigidly restrained, are quite unpredictable. They vary so much from one painting or collage to another, that to fully comprehend his genius one must be familiar with the whole body of his work. Only then does one appreciate the constantly fresh invention that transforms theory into a form of classical, austere, and highly poetic art. The peak of Gris' career came between the years 1916 and 1919 before he was smitten with the failing health that plagued him until he died of uremia in 1927. Despite his poor health during the twenties Gris designed stage sets for Diaghilev, illustrated a book for Max Jacob, and painted several outstanding works.