Violin and Engraving

874 x 1152 148.5K
148.5K, 874 x 1152

Violin and Engraving
Painted: April 1913
Oil, sand, and pasted engraving on canvas
Private collection

In Violin and Engraving Gris introduced an actual work of art, in the form of a print, which he carefully cut to fit into the fragmentary shape of a painted frame. The picture thus constructed seems to hang from an illusionistically rendered nail in the upper right corner of the canvas. Here again Gris adapted a motif found in certain late 1909-10 paintings of Braque to his own particular ends and in the process modified its meaning. The nail in Gris's collage enhances the illusionism of this section of the canvas in opposition to the fragmentary forms that compose the rest of the composition. Yet that very illusionism is founded, paradoxically, on the appropriation of a previously existing image rather than on the work of copying. When Kahnweiler wrote to tell Gris that he had sold this collage, the artist responded by asserting that the new owner could substitute a picture of his own choosing for this engraving without affecting the true value of the work: ``You are right, as a matter of fact; in principle the picture should be left as it is. But, once M. Brenner has acquired the picture, if he wants to substitute something else for this engraving--his portrait, for example--he is free to do so. It may look better or it may look worse, like changing the frame on a picture, but it won't upset the merits of the picture.'' Kahnweiler, of course, demurred but only because he had not fully grasped (or did not agree with) the radical significance of Gris's statement. For Kahnweiler, as for most subsequent commentators, no aspect of a Gris collage could be altered without destroying the integrity of the work's original appearance, and, it is implied, the integrity of the artist's conception. But Gris's letter to Kahnweiler asserts an opposing view. If the engraving could be replaced with another picture, it was because this engraving was the only part of the collage Gris had not made. The image was meaningful not in its own right, but as an emblem of the artist's refusal to copy. The original intervention of the artist, however, remained determining: if a new image were to be substituted for the engraving, it would have to conform to the engraving's shape and placement in order to preserve Gris's composition. Ultimately, for Gris the "merits of the picture" lay in those elements that revealed the artist's imagination or invention: his choice of subject, composition, and facture. The merits of the picture, that is, lay everywhere except in the collage element.