signed Juan Gris and dated 26 (lower right)
'Gertrude Stein called Juan Gris "a perfect painter" and it is not difficult to appreciate her characterization. In a painting by him we find an intensely satisfying, hermetic relationship of pictorial elements, one balanced by the next and then another until the subtlety of resonance reaches an exquisite pitch' (Norman Rosenthal, Juan Gris, New York, 1983, p. 3).
La Mandoline noire, painted the year before Gris's untimely death in 1927, exemplifies the stylistic traits that defined Cubism. The multiple planes and refracted perspective are typical of the optical experimentation of the movement, but the vibrant, rich palette shows Gris's distinctive interpretation of Cubism. The present work illustrates what Gris described as his 'deductive method' in which he would begin with abstract shapes that would, with the painting process, materialize into concrete objects. Firmly locked into place by a series of overlapping planes, the mandolin, book, pear and tablecloth achieve a solidity and clarity of definition that is the result of strong geometric lines and intense blocks of colour.
Fig. 1 shows the present work hanging (lower tier, at far right of left wall) in a retrosepctive held at the gallery of his close friend Daniel Kahnweiler a year after Gris's tragically premature death in 1927. Gris's ill health through the 1920s cast a dark shadow over his ever increasing commercial and critical success which would be sadly cut short at a time when Gris was at the height of his artistic powers. Along with Picasso, Daniel Kahnweiler was one of the chief mourners at Gris's funeral in Paris and it was Kahnweiler who carefully guarded Gris's posthumous reputation as one of the great master's of Cubism.
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