Portrait of Josette Gris

Juan Gris1916

Museo Reina Sofia

Museo Reina Sofia
Madrid, Spain

This oil painting, a portrait of the artist's wife, Josette Gris, was part of the donation made to the Prado Museum in 1979 by the Cubism historian Douglas Cooper. The canvas illustrates the shift taking place in Cubism, from rupture to the search for a tradition in the history of painting, in relation to the changes in French politics during the Great War.

Christopher Green and Kenneth Silver, art historians and specialists in the work of Juan Gris, have pointed out that for some Cubists, such as Gris, Lipchitz and Picasso, connecting with the so-called "French tradition" was extremely important. According to Green, this connection with French classical painting took the form of a new sense of compositional order and in a restriction of pictorial elements, two aspects practiced by the Cubists and, especially, Juan Gris. A large part of this return had to do with the search for a genealogy for the avant-garde, in the context of rising traditionalist conservatism during the Great War.

Such a return was evident in the themes of the work, which immediately suggested relationships with the painting of a reinterpreted past, especially starting in 1916, when Gris made his adaptations of Corot and Cézanne. This is the case of Portrait of Josette Gris, painted in the autumn of that year and considered one of the sequels of Woman with Mandolin (after Corot). Although it is unlikely that Gris made use of one of Corot's figures, instead using Josette herself for her portrait, the very posture she is in has an unmistakeable air of ordinary life, the same tone that Picasso had given his Woman with Mandolin before the war. These versions of the French tradition, which range from the still lifes of Chardin to the peasant women of Corot, and even include the landscapes of Cézanne, cast doubt on the suggestion that Juan Gris was a Spanish painter, influenced by the Golden Age, and instead place him in the context of the reinterpretation of the French tradition as a consequence of the rise in nationalism during the Great War and the years that followed.


  • Title: Portrait of Josette Gris
  • Creator: Juan Gris
  • Creator Death Place: Boulogne-sur-Seine, Île-de-France, France
  • Creator Birth Place: Madrid, Spain
  • Date Created: 1916
  • Style: Cubism
  • Provenance: Douglas Cooper Bequest, 1979
  • Physical Dimensions: w970 x h1405 mm
  • Original Title: Portrait de Madame Josette Gris
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on panel

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