Portrait de Madame Josette Gris (Portrait of Madame Josette Gris)

Juan Gris (José Victoriano González Pérez)

Madrid, Spain, 1887 - Boulogne-sur-Seine, France, 1927

As well as marking the starting point of Synthetic Cubism, 1916 also marked the beginning for Juan Gris – as would happen later for Picasso – of a meticulous re-examination of the work of some past masters, particularly Paul Cézanne, Corot and Velázquez.
The three works that Juan Gris produced at this time, inspired by Corot, are more female portraits: Femme à la mandoline, d'après Corot (Woman with Mandolin, [after Corot], 1916; Kunstmuseum Basel), Femme assise (Seated Woman, 1917; Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza collection) and Portrait de Madame Josette Gris (Portrait of Madame Josette Gris) from the Museo Reina Sofía collection. It seems that all three are based on the physical appearance of Josette, Juan Gris’ partner, who posed to a greater or lesser extent for each work. In Portrait de Madame Josette Gris, Josette is sitting in a chair, in front a section of wall, the lower part of which is wood-panelled. The shadow she casts is used to give the sensation of depth, while her hands lie draped on her knees. Both conceptually and formally, this portrait could easily be the result of a cross between the combined influences of Corot and Cézanne. From Corot, Juan Gris once more takes the pyramidal structure of the composition; he then takes inspiration for the arrangement and pose of the female figure from some of the portraits Cézanne painted of his wife, particularly Madame Cézanne au fauteuil jaune (Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Armchair, 1888-1890; The Art Institute of Chicago). This is particularly noticeable in the particular way that both models have their hands crossed on their laps.

Paloma Esteban Leal