Who's up for a bit of Cubism?
Today's painting showcases a quintessential Cubist amalgamation of objects, extending beyond the titular checkerboard and cards to include a pipe, wine glasses, and the newspaper, Le Journal. While these elements are everyday items, Gris presents them uniquely juxtaposed. The painting compresses space, with overlapping planes, making elements like the table's edge, the blue backdrop, and the floor almost flush with the canvas. Traditional foreground-background spatial distinctions are playfully subverted.
This still life is a testament to Gris' artistic prowess and cleverness. It operates on a systematic contrast: from radiant whites to profound blacks, punctuated with a spectrum ranging from soft yellows and blues to intense maroons and sharp greens. Geometric forms, both curved and sharply angled, interact dynamically, and there's a fascinating interplay between translucent and solid surfaces. The pinnacle of this composition is the interweaving of ambiguous shapes with explicit details, like the card markings and the intricate wood pattern.
Gris's exemplary creations emerged between 1914 and 1917—a period marked by personal hardships, as his letters reveal. By 1915, the artist was streamlining his designs, striving for clear structures and grandeur in his devotedly painted still lifes.
P.S. Cubism is usually associated with men, but there were quite a few women painting in this style. Meet Alexandra Exter, a painter who influenced Art Deco!