Juan Gris was born José Victoriano Carmelo Carlos González-Pérez in Madrid on March 23, 1887. He studied mechanical drawing at the Escuela de Artes y Manufacturas in Madrid from 1902 to 1904, during which time he contributed drawings to local periodicals. From 1904 to 1905 he studied painting with the academic artist José Maria Carbonero. In 1906 he moved to Paris, where he lived for most of the remainder of his life. His friends in Paris included Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso and the writers Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, and Maurice Raynal. Although he continued to submit humorous illustrations to journals such as L’Assiette au beurre, Le Charivari, and Le Cri de Paris, Gris began to paint seriously in 1910. By 1912 he had developed a personal Cubist style.
He exhibited for the first time in 1912 at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona, Der Sturm gallery in Berlin, the Salon de la Société Normande de Peinture Moderne in Rouen, and the Salon de la Section d’Or in Paris. That same year D.H. Kahnweiler signed Gris to a contract that gave Kahnweiler exclusive rights to the artist’s work. Gris became a good friend of Henri Matisse in 1914 and over the next several years formed close relationships with Jacques Lipchitz and Jean Metzinger. After Kahnweiler fled Paris at the outbreak of World War I, Gris signed a contract with Léonce Rosenberg in 1916. His first major solo show was held at Rosenberg’s Galerie l’Effort Moderne in Paris in 1919. The following year Kahnweiler returned and once again became Gris’s dealer.
In 1922 the painter first designed ballet sets and costumes for Sergei Diaghilev. Gris articulated most of his aesthetic theories during 1924 and 1925. He delivered his definitive lecture, “Des possibilités de la peinture,” at the Sorbonne in 1924. Major Gris exhibitions took place at the Galerie Simon in Paris and the Galerie Flechtheim in Berlin in 1923 and at the Galerie Flechtheim in Düsseldorf in 1925. As his health declined, Gris made frequent visits to the south of France. He died in Boulogne-sur-Seine on May 11, 1927.