The Coffee Mill (1916) by Juan Gris

The Coffee Mill - Juan Gris - 1916

Artwork Information

TitleThe Coffee Mill
ArtistJuan Gris
Art MovementSynthetic Cubism
Current LocationCleveland Museum of Art (CMA), Cleveland, OH, US

About The Coffee Mill

The artwork “The Coffee Mill” by Juan Gris dates back to 1916 and is executed in oil on canvas. It is a prime example of Synthetic Cubism, an art movement characterized by the assembly of various elements into a structured composition. As a still life, this painting explores the fragmentation and reassembly of objects in a manner that challenges traditional perspectives. The piece is part of the collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) in Cleveland, Ohio, United States.

In this still life by Juan Gris, viewers are presented with a dynamic and geometric composition that exemplifies the principles of Synthetic Cubism. The central object, the coffee mill, is depicted in a fragmented manner, with its parts disassembled and reorganized to create a complex interplay of shapes and planes. The palette is relatively muted, with a dominance of greens, blacks, whites, and browns, but there are also passages of brighter colors such as orange and red which add a dynamic contrast to the composition.

The juxtaposition of shapes—from the circular handle of the mill to the sharp, angular edges of the surrounding forms—creates a rhythm that guides the eye across the canvas. The composition is built upon contrasts: curved versus straight lines, dark versus light tones, and solid colors against patterned textures. Despite the abstract nature of the work, one can discern the suggestion of a tabletop and the suggestion of a wall or space behind the mill, though these elements are integrated into the overall geometric framework of the painting.

The very structure of the coffee mill is reimagined through the Cubist lens, focusing not on its outward appearance but on conveying its essence in a novel manner. Gris has dissected and rearranged the conventional imagery to prompt viewers to consider the form and function of the object from multiple perspectives simultaneously. This approach is indicative of the evolution of Cubism from the earlier Analytic phase to the Synthetic phase, wherein artists would combine and overlap various elements to create a cohesive whole that still alludes to the original subject matter.

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