Juan Gris’ 1913 painting Violin And Guitar is a masterpiece of the Cubist style, exploring the dimensionality of the objects depicted and conjuring a vision of the way things are, not necessarily the way they are seen. A seminal moment in the history of modern art, Juan Gris worked alongside Picasso to forge a visual lexicon that united a poetic understanding of objects and vision, while questioning the established notions of the Renaissance discovered of fixed perception. Violin And Guitar challenges the idea of single viewpoint, allowing the objects to appear from a number of different angles and spatial planes. This Cubist reproduction of two musical instruments was a revolutionary break with the past and still retains the distinct shock of the new. Built on a series of rhymes and rhythms rather than lines of sight, Gris teases out the musicality of these silent objects. Housed in a distinctive space, a domestic room, Gris contrasts the representational flourishes with the patterns of the everyday, challenging the viewer to see the humdrum world in a new light.
Initially painting in his own style of Analytical Cubism, Gris began conforming to Synthetic Cubism around the time that Violin and Guitar was painted. In other works Gris would utilize papier collé and collage techniques, and shunned the insistence of his fellow Cubists Picasso and Braque to paint in monochrome, preferring to color his playful reproductions of dimensionality in bright, warm, celebratory tones. Like many artists of his day, Gris died in poverty, yet recently Violin and Guitar sold for a record-breaking $28,642,500 at Christie’s New York. The hefty price-tag is not surprising when one recognises the painting as one of the prime examples of the Cubist style – a symphonic poem in paint.
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