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The Violin

Artist: Juan Gris
Created: 1916
Dimensions (cm): 73.0 x 116.5
Format: Oil on three-ply panel
Location: Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland

The Violin

“I always pet a dog with my left hand because if he bit me I'd still have my right hand to paint with.” – Juan Gris

Cubism artist Juan Gris painted ‘The Violin’ in 1916 using oil on a three ply panel. His fondness for the art of music is apparent in this depiction of a violin, an image derived from the depths of his imagination. Gris felt a strong connection in painting musical tools; he believed that these instruments were as defining to the musician as a paintbrush was to a painter.

The painting is a display of overlapping colors and shapes, which produces an impression of transparent objects superimposed. The panel consists entirely of hues of blues, browns, and blacks, except for the blinding whiteness of the music sheet that lies under the violin’s bow; it becomes the central focus and creates a striking contrast. The color tones of ‘The Violin’ harmonize with the vertical and horizontal contours; additionally, they offer a digital aspect to the overall performance of the painting. Although the painting may be judged as being out of focus by some viewers, Juan Gris stated that he wanted “to create new objects which cannot be compared with any objects in reality... My Violin, being a creation, need fear no comparison.”


“Simultaneous with still lifes in which objects are reduced to signs or disappear are several pictures that are virtually portraits of objects. Leger is sometimes given credit, in certain works of 1924-25, for predicting "object-painting," that is, the isolation of an object against a planar composition. Yet Gris precedes him by a number of years. Though he had shown an early interest in manufactured objects, Gris reserved his greatest emotion and energy for tools of musicians. These possess heightened, idealized connotations for Gris and are worthy of his greatest efforts. But his aim was synthetic. He wanted a synthetic creation of the mind, not an imitation of nature. Among his highest achievements in this regard is "The Violin," 1916.” – Mark Rosenthal, Berk University of California.

‘The Violin’ by Juan Gris is currently located at the Kunstmuseum, in Basel, Switzerland.


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