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Still Life with a Poem, 1915

Juan Gris

Spanish, 1887-1927
Oil on canvas
31-3/4 x 25-1/2 in. (80.6 x 64.8 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1968.08.1.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Born in Madrid, Gris settled in Paris, joining the avant-garde circle of his compatriot Picasso and becoming one of the principal exponents of Cubism. Like his fellow Cubists Picasso and Braque, Gris experimented with collage, incorporating bits of wallpaper, fragments of mirror, and pages from books in his paintings from 1914. Although this picture, which dates from the following year, is painted entirely in oils, it imitates a collage in the convincing faux-wood grain of the table and the fictive scrap of paper that appears pinned to the bottom of the composition. This detail betrays Gris’s admiration for the seventeenth-century Spanish paintings he would have seen on childhood visits to the Prado. The text it bears, however, is decidedly modern: a poem written by the artist’s friend Pierre Reverdy, for whose collection of abstract prose poems Gris painted a set of watercolor illustrations.

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