Juan Gris: Still Life with Open Window, Rue Ravignan
JUAN GRIS (1887-1927)
'Still Life with Open Window, Rue Ravignan', 1915
(oil on canvas)
Still life was the most popular of the cubist themes as it allowed artists to use everyday objects whose forms were still recognizable after they had been simplified and stylized. 'Still Life with Open Window, Rue Ravignan' is a great example of Gris' cubist style. It contains some of the traditional objects commonly associated with still life: a bowl of fruit, a bottle and a glass, a newspaper and a book, all carefully arranged on a table top at a balcony window. The objects are lit by electric light which contrasts with the moonlit scene outside the window. The subject may have been clichéd and predictable but its arrangement was revolutionary.
Juan Gris was more calculating than any other Cubist painter in the way he composed his pictures. Every element of a painting was considered with classical precision: line, shape, tone, colour and pattern were carefully refined to create an interlocking arrangement free from any unnecessary decoration or detail.
Gris flattens the composition of 'Still Life with Open Window, Rue Ravignan' into a grid of overlapping planes. Within the structure of this grid, he delicately balances and counterbalances different areas of the work. Sections shift from light to dark, positive to negative, monochrome to colour, transparency to opacity, and from lamplight inside the room to moonlight outside. The relationships of these juxtaposed elements leave us with a sense of the still life group in its surroundings - the kind of fragmented sense that our memory would retain had we seen them for ourselves.
Juan Gris' 'Still Life with Open Window, Rue Ravignan' is a classic example of his style which contains most of the visual characteristics of the Cubist technique.