On the trail of Juan Gris

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In the grey December of Madrid, about the hottest color is the red dress of a woman painted by Juan Gris. Gris went off to Paris in 1906, at the age of 19, not so much to paint as just to get away from the conscription that would have sent him off to the war in Morocco. As fugitives do, he gave himself another name, and then shortened it to Juan Gris, which suitably smacked of Cubism.

The Cubist movement that Picasso and Braque had founded became, for Juan Gris, a permanent esthetic home. After a few years Braque drifted off into decorative painting, while Picasso’s immense energy led him toward expansion, rather than persistence or concentration. Juan Gris had a much shorter life than Picasso or Braque, and thus less time to change; but besides, he had a sort of innate obstinacy, that peculiar kind of talent that thrives on concentration, and finds strength in rigid limits.