At the Sun of the Roof - Au Soleil du Plafond

Artist’s Name
Author’s Name
Juan Gris (José Vittoriano González) (1887-1927)
Pierre Reverdy (1889-1960)
1955, Paris
Printed in one volume, size 43 x 33 cm
11 coloured off-the-text lithographs
Printed on ‘vélin d’ Arches’ paper:
  • 205 copies, numbered 1-205
  • 15 copies, off the market, numbered I-XV
In 1916, the famous publisher Rosenberg came up with the idea of imprinting the handwritten poems of Pierre Reverdy on big flat surfaces that were entitled At the Four Walls. The poems of this important French modern poet were to be illustrated with tempera by the acknowledged Spanish painter, Juan Gris. This idea never materialized in this form. Reverdy took his poems from Rosenberg; he proposed that Tériade should publish them in a more conventional form and under a different title. Juan Gris died in 1927, having completed only part of the illustration. As a result, only eleven lithographs accompany the twenty poems of the book. Thus, the book was published in 1955, after almost thirty years from the day that his creators spawned the idea for it.

Juan Gris and Pierre Reverdy can be regarded as ideal partners for the creation of such a book. Both Gris and Reverdy follow the rules of Cubism at a time when their expressive means had reached maturity. Reverdy joins the ranks of the Cubists not only due to the particular structure of his poems, but also due to the brute manner in which he expresses his spiritual doubts that are evoked by the mysteries of the universe. Gris, as the major fundamental agent of Synthetic Cubism, composed images of austere and unadorned composition, based on specific formulas and precise calculations. His images create a significant unity between the illustrations, the text and the additional parts within the image itself. There is great correspondence between the words of the poet and the multi-layered images of the painter; this correlation assists the illustrations to broaden the poem, rather than making it stagnant.

Gris gives a particular form to abstract ideas by creating specific objects using abstract shapes. He accomplishes that by obliterating geometric shapes and creating an open, multi-dimensional space. At the same time, he added letters and other easily recognizable materials, like the ones used for collage, proposing a different solution to the problem of representing a three-dimensional object. He solved the problem of perspective by creating a particular image with similar colourings and simple decorative shapes. For the same reason, he presents all of his shapes in such a way that everything comes together on the whole surface. The form becomes unified and the line precise; the eye wanders and dreams in this continuity of numerous levels. Reverdy appreciated Gris’ great abilities in drawing and despite the fact that his poems’ illustrations remained incomplete on account of the artist’s death, he then decided to have it published rather than commission it to another artist.