Mandolin and Pipe
Oil on canvas
Gift of Ruth and Charles Lachman; P.959.128
At the end of the sixteenth century and again at the end of the nineteenth century—two transformative moments in the history of art when painters strived for new modes of artistic expression—still life emerged as an important vehicle for experimentation and innovation. Around 1600 many artists explored the descriptive and dramatic potential of the natural world in pure landscapes, floral arrangements, and other nonfigurative subjects. Three centuries later, when some painters investigated diverse conventions of verisimilitude, still life once again served as a laboratory for the development of alternative representational techniques.
While some other artists who had experimented with cubism before World War I reverted to traditional styles after 1918, such as André Derain (1880-1954) Juan Gris continued to produce canvases in this manner until his death in 1927. He was generally appreciated more for the depth and consistency of his method than for his innovation. Gris was more methodical than the other members of the movement, who tended to take a more intuitive approach to their art. The first retrospective devoted to his work took place in 1933 in Zurich, and three years later the Museum of Modern Art treated Gris as a significant figure in its survey exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art.
Executed only two years before the artist’s death, Mandolin and Pipe belongs to a series of works that reveal Gris’s particular brand of cubism in that period: an adherence to the still-life, undulating shapes contrasted with obtuse and acute angles, and a striking sense of color. His dealer and biographer Daniel-Hentry Kahnweiler (1884-1979), who once owned this work, considered the paintings of the 1920s to be “the most fruitful and beautiful of the whole of Juan Gris’ oeuvre.”
Last Updated: 10/29/09