Man in a Café

Juan Gris (José Victoriano González Pérez), Spanish, 1887 - 1927

Geography:
Made in France, Europe

Date:
1912

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
50 1/4 x 34 3/4 inches (127.6 x 88.3 cm) Framed: 53 1/2 x 37 5/8 x 2 1/4 inches (135.9 x 95.6 x 5.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Modern Art

* Gallery 172, Modern and Contemporary Art, first floor

Accession Number:
1950-134-94

Credit Line:
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

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Label:
Juan Gris was the only artist included in the 1912 Salon de la Section d'Or who actually used the ideal mathematical proportions of the Golden Section to construct his compositions, as seen in the complex system of grids and geometrical forms that make up this image of a café-terrace dandy. This modern man of taste, complete with top hat and black suit, rests one hand on a chair, while cradling a glass of absinthe in the other. The inclusion of the letters "PIC" and "AP" to the left of the man's shoulder can be understood as a reference to Picasso, the cocreator of Cubism, and Guillaume Apollinaire, the movement's fervent critical champion.

Additional information:
  • PublicationMasterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art

    After working in Madrid as a satirical magazine illustrator, Juan Gris moved in 1906 to Paris, where he resided in the Montmartre tenement dubbed the Bateau-Lavoir ("laundry boat"), then also home to Pablo Picasso and a host of other artists. Although Gris ultimately devoted his full attention to painting, his roots as a satirist were never completely abandoned, as can be seen in this depiction of a smug middle-class gentleman. The artist painted Man in a Café while involved with the Puteaux Group, a circle of artists who gathered at Jacques Villon's suburban studio to discuss science and philosophy in relation to their Cubist practices. To construct his compositions, Gris would come to rely particularly on the section d'or, or golden section, the ratio or proportion employed by artists and architects since antiquity. Man in a Café, with its complex yet balanced system of grids and facets, may have been inspired by the golden section; it was exhibited in the landmark Salon de la Section d'Or in 1912. The inclusion of the initials PIC and AP in the painting may also indicate that Gris was paying homage to Cubism's cocreator, Picasso, and its early critic, Guillaume Apollinaire. Melissa Kerr, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 154.

Provenance

Robert J. Coady (1876-1921), New York, dealer [1]; sold to John Quinn (1870-1924), NYC, 1917; sale, John Quinn Collection, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 28 Oct. 1926, no. 57, illus. Pierre Faure, Paris, probably by 1930 and certainly by 1933 [from Léonce Rosenberg, from Quinn sale?] [2]; Louise and Walter C. Arensberg, Los Angeles, through Marcel Duchamp as agent, 1938 [3]; gift to PMA, 1950. 1. See Judith K. Zilczer, "Robert J. Coady, Forgotten Spokesman for Avant-Garde Culture in America," American Art Review, vol. 2, no. 6 (Nov.-Dec. 1975), p. 81. 2. A painting by Gris entitled "Le buveur" was lent by Faure for exhibition at de Hauke & Co., NY, in April 1930. The dimensions listed in the de Hauke & Co. exhibition logbook, 50 1/4 x 34 3/4 in., match the PMA painting closely. Supporting this identification is the fact that C.J. Bulliet, The Significant Moderns and their Pictures (New York, 1936) illustrated the PMA painting, pl. 211, as "The Drinker", captioned C. de Hauke & Co. See Archives of American Art, Jacques Seligmann & Co. Records / Series 9.4 / Box 406 / f. 8 / De Hauke & Co., Inc. Records / Exhibition Files: Logbooks, 1930-1932 (copy in curatorial file); and Zürich, Kunsthaus, "Juan Gris," 1933, no. 35, lent by Pierre Faure, Paris (label of Faure originally on reverse). According to Douglas Cooper, Faure formed his large collection of 26 paintings by Gris between 1915 and 1927, buying from Léonce Rosenberg. Some 21 oil paintings owned by Faure were lent to the 1933 Zürich exhibition (all pre-1920). Cooper states that the entire collection was acquired by Kahnweiler's Galerie Simon in Paris in 1933 (Cooper, The Essential Cubism, 1983, pp. 25, 31). However, none of the Arensberg Gris paintings, all from the Faure collection, have Galerie Simon labels. This suggests that Duchamp acquired them directly from Faure (see note 4). 3. Provenance notes made for the Arensbergs by Marcel Duchamp, dated Sept. 8, 1951 (PMA, Arensberg Archives), state that this and the other four paintings by Gris in the Arensberg collection were acquired as a group from a "private collection" (Faure's?).


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