Signed Juan Gris and dated Paris 12-13 on the reverse
Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris (acquired from the artist and sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 2ème vente Kahnweiler, November 17-18, 1921, lot 142)
Galerie Simon, Paris (in 1935)
Marie Cuttoli, Paris
André Lefèvre, Paris
Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris (acquired in 1948)
Henri Hoppenot, Paris (sold: Binoche & Godeau, Paris, April 9, 1991, lot 13)
Sale: Christie's, New York, May 14, 1997, lot 38
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Paris, Galerie Simon, Exposition de Juan Gris, 1923, no. 3
Zürich, Kunsthaus, Juan Gris, 1933, no. 42
Paris, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Les Créateurs du Cubisme, 1935, no. 40
Gris' dynamic oil and collage composition, Guitare, displays all the elements of a great synthetic Cubist picture. Gris constructs this composition using textured yellow wallpaper, overlapping color planes, painted elements of text, faux bois patterning, and a depiction of sheet music. The body of the guitar is represented by the deep yellow element in the center overlapped by strings, and that very shape reverberates throughout the composition in the outlining purple, brown and red areas. The resulting image, with its melodious interplay of shapes and color, is as lyrical as its title implies. And the subject itself held special importance to Gris, who would allegedly break down in tears when he heard the strumming of Spanish guitars. "The essense of painting," Gris once wrote, "is the expression of certain relationships between the painter and the outside world" (quoted in Mark Rosenthal, Juan Gris (ex. cat.), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York & University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, p. 45). Indeed, this work can be considered a synthesis of music and the visual arts.
Gris created his Guitare on the brink of World War I, just when Cubism was being transformed from a movement of 'analytical' pictorial deconstruction to one of 'synthetic' pictorial reconstruction. Over the course of the 1910s, several artists would attempt to adopt the perspectival and compositional devices that the Cubist founders Braque and Picasso (fig. 2) had started using at the end of the first decade, but few would be as highly regarded for their talent and vision as Gris. As a result, Gris was considered one of the leaders of the Cubist movement, along with Picasso, Braque and Léger. Recalling this period and her association with the Cubists, Gertrude Stein identified Gris as an artist of foremost importance among these cultural figures: "The only real Cubism is that of Picasso and Juan Gris. Picasso created it and Juan Gris permeated it with his clarity and exaltation" (Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, New York, 1933, p. 111).
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Gris' dealer who was once in possession of this painting, provided the following analysis of Gris' particular Cubist style: "... [T]he emblems which Juan Gris invented 'signified' the whole of the object which he meant to represent. All the details are not present. The emblems are not comprehensible without previous visual experiences. . . The picture contains not the forms which have been collected in the visual memory of the painter, but new forms, forms which differ from those of the 'real' objects we meet within the visible world, forms which are truly emblems and which only become objects in the perception of the spectator" (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Juan Gris: His Life and Work, London, 1947, p. 90).
One of the first owners of this work was Marie Cuttoli (1879-1973), who was the proprietor of the textile boutique Myrbor in Paris and a major promoter of the arts of textiles during the first half of the twentieth century. Between the 1920s and 1950s, Cuttoli promoted the cross-cultural exchange of artistic ideas among textile artisans in Algeria and France and modern painters in Europe, including Natalia Goncharova, Picasso, Léger and Le Corbusier. Along with her contributions in this field, Cuttoli was also a major collector of important twentieth century avant-garde art.
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