Juan Gris’s “The Man at the Café” is a genre painting created in the winter-spring of Paris in 1914. The painting utilizes Synthetic Cubism with mathematical proportions of the Golden Section to construct its composition. The painting features a man sitting with a stein of beer in front of him, reading the newspaper Le Matin. Pages of the newspaper are held together by a stick with teardrop-shaped ends.
This is Gris’s largest and most celebrated collage, and he was the only artist at the 1912 Salon de la Section d’Or to use the system of the Golden Section. Gris, a Spanish painter, illustrator, and sculptor, was connected to the innovative artistic genre of Cubism. He met Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in Paris in 1906 and identified as a Cubist six years later.
“The Man at the Café” provides a new experience of the everyday through cubism. Gris’s experimentation with collage in this painting inspired Joseph Cornell to create a series of Gris shadow boxes in homage to the work. Overall, the painting depicts the mundane activity of a man reading in a café, but through Gris’s unique artistic style, it becomes a dynamic and captivating piece of art.