The papier collé, invented by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in 1912, found a rich and complex expression in the 1914 works of Gris. In conception, his papiers collés are closer to paintings than are the sparely drawn compositions of his forerunners; unlike them Gris covers the whole surface with pasted papers and paint. In works such as Breakfast, Gris's use of printed papers is more literal than theirs: the wood-grained fragments usually follow some of the contours of a table and are therefore integral to the composition; and his perspectival cues are relatively legible and precise. His superimposed drawings of domestic objects, fragmented yet softly modeled and most often seen from above, combine to create a more representational pictorial composition than those of Braque and Picasso.
Despite these observations, Breakfast is full of troubling contradictions. The striped wallpaper background spills across the table; certain objects (a glass on the left, a bottle in the upper right) appear as ghostly presences; the coffeepot is disjointed; the tobacco packet is painted and drawn in photographically realistic trompe l'oeil, but its label is real. Thus, while aspects of domestic comfort are captured in this image, Gris also raises many subjective and objective questions about how reality is perceived.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 76.