Portrait of Juan Gris, Patrick Caulfield
At a glance
Artist: Patrick Caulfield
Materials: Alkyd housepaint on hardboard
Acquisition: Wilson Gift through Art Fund (2006)
Patrick Caulfield’s vibrant and graphic portrait of Juan Gris was made whilst he was still a student at the Royal College of Art. It was included in the seminal The New Generation exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. This exhibition also featured the artists Derek Boshier, David Hockney and Allen Jones. It is seen to mark the arrival of British Pop onto the art scene.
Despite being associated with Pop Art, Caulfield described himself as a ‘formal’ artist. He was inspired by the experiments of Cubist artists such as Juan Gris. He said ‘What I like about Juan Gris’s work is not that he’s dealing with different viewpoints, it’s the way he does it. It’s very strong, formally, and decorative.’
Caulfield wanted to breathe new life into traditional subjects in art, such as still life or portraiture, through his use of bold primary colours and graphic lines. He took inspiration from commercial methods of image making, such as screenprinting. He also experimented with unconventional painting materials. In this work he used everyday house paint, which contributes to the flatness of the colour.
Caulfield carefully planned his compositions. This can be seen through the preparatory sketches for the portrait, which are also in the Gallery collection. The work began as a satirical homage to one of modern art’s early pioneers, the French artist Paul Cézanne. The sketches gradually evolve into this stylised portrayal of the Cubist painter, Juan Gris. In the end Caulfield created a celebratory portrait of an artist he greatly admired.