This papier collé—a collage of pasted papers—presents a breakfast table as a vertiginous collision of perspectives and methods of representation. Gris used two types of mechanically printed, imitation wood-grain paper to evoke the table’s surface and legs, while real wallpaper suggests the background wall. These printed sheets, in addition to vibrant blue and white papers and wedges of painted canvas, fit together in a tightly interlocking structure. On these fragments, Gris drew objects seen from different angles, including cups and saucers, an eggcup and spoon, and a coffeepot. Modeled in high relief, these elements display a three-dimensionality that stands in stark contrast to the papers’ flatness. He also included a printed packaging label and a newspaper clipping. Bearing the word “GRIS,” it serves as a kind of signature.
Papier collé was invented by the French artist Georges Braque in 1912, when he incorporated imitation wood-grain paper into a drawing rather than painstakingly rendering the wood by hand. The innovation captivated Gris, who embarked on a period of concentrated experimentation with the new medium in 1914. In Breakfast, paper fragments stretch to the edge of the canvas, emphasizing both the pictorial and the literal qualities of the materials.
Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)