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How Juan Gris brought fun to Cubism (+video)

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(Read caption) Juan Gris honored with Google Doodle
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Google swapped out its regular logo today for shards of violins, guitars, and maybe a little cherry pie in the top-right corner. This kaleidoscope-twisted Google doodle pays respect to the Spanish artist Juan Gris. The digital collage honors three things about Mr. Gris' work: It's colorful. It's beautifully fragmented. And, chiefly, it's fun.

Gris studied art in Spain, but his creative work didn't really take off until he moved to Paris in 1906. There, he befriended Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso, three heavy-hitters of 20th century art. They introduced him to an emerging school of painting called Cubism.

Cubism is a weird but very important art style. For hundreds of years, traditional painters captured life as if they were snapping a photograph – everything was flat, still, and from a single perspective. But Cubists thought that this time-honored approach was, in many ways, unnatural. In real life, your eyes wander. You see the world from shifting angles. Nothing remains frozen in time and space. So the Cubists experimented with ways to break free.

Picasso and Braque led the way. Their paintings captured scenes from many different perspectives all at once. Yet much of their work feels purposefully exclusive. Without a thorough understanding of the Cubist philosophy, pieces such as Picasso's "Ma Jolie" could be baffling. What is that? The title translates to "My Pretty Girl," but it takes a very trained eye to see why.

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