Leonard A. Lauder gifts Cubist masterpiece to the Met

Juan Gris (Spanish, 1887–1927), ‘The Musician’s Table,’ 1914. Charcoal, wax crayon, gouache, cut-and-pasted printed wallpaper, blue and white laid papers, transparentized paper, newsprint, and brown wrapping paper; selectively varnished on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection, Purchase, Leonard A. Lauder Gift, 2018

NEW YORK – The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today the addition of Juan Gris’s remarkable The Musician’s Table (May–June 1914) to the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection. Acquired with funds given by Leonard A. Lauder, this major example of Gris’s exploration in papier collé joins the collection now totaling 83 Cubist works by Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso.

The Musician’s Table deepens the rich holdings of the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection, the most important of its kind. It joins six other collages from this pivotal moment of the artist’s career, forming an unparalleled representation of his experimental forays into this medium,” said Max Hollein, director of the museum.

Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso invented papier collé in 1912 as yet another avant-garde challenge to the traditional illusionism in painting and to embrace the realities of modern mass culture. Juan Gris (Spanish, 1887–1927), however, was the first to exhibit a Cubist collage in a public exhibition, drawing immediate notoriety and making his name as an avant-garde artist. Between December 1913 and October 1914, the artist moved away from painting to concentrate on this novel, hybrid technique, producing some 40 works with cut and pasted papers, oil paint, gouache, and various drawing media. Decorative wallpapers and allusions to the pulp fiction novels Fantomas particularly inspired him, and he carefully organized his compositions around the textural and symbolic properties of his materials. His works from 1914 have been praised as the summit of the artist’s oeuvre by Cubist scholar John Golding, who wrote that they “represent the climax of Gris’s exploration of the intellectual possibilities of Cubism and of the new techniques it has introduced.”

Within the carefully cut and pasted layers of The Musician’s Table, Gris inserted a clever message: The headline of the journal that rests on the table is made from newspaper mastheads from two different dates and refers to the mounting tensions of 1914 but also to rivalries between the Cubists. Along with the violin yet to be played and notation sheet awaiting a score, the composition suggests Gris’s hope for peace and harmony with his fellow artists.

This magnificent new acquisition is now on view in gallery 908 along with other hallmarks of The Met’s modern art collection.

“Since the landmark gift in 2013, Leonard A. Lauder has augmented the collection with five additional masterworks of modern art. His continued commitment and outstanding generosity to the museum is exemplary, and it continues a nearly 150-year tradition of support from donors and collectors that is critical to the success of the Met’s mission,” said Daniel H. Weiss, president and CEO of the Met.