GRUBER Francis
French painter, born in Nancy March 15, 1912, died in Paris December 1, 1948. His father, who was of Alsatian ancestry, was a glass painter and also his brother. His mother was of Polish origin. Gruber's health was so delicate that he was incapable of sustained study. At a very early age he showed unusually precocious gifts for drawing and painting. He was guided by Bissière and Braque, who had neighbouring studios, and in 1928 he entered the Académic Scandinave, where he became the favourite pupil of Friesz and Dufreane. He was so successful at the Salons d'Automne and Salons des Tuileries that by the time he was eighteen he was one of the 'characters' of Montparnasse. His truculence and verve were as apparent in his kermesse paintings -he was a great admirer of Breughel, Bosch, Grünewald and Dürer -- as in his voluble speech and his irregular existence. He was, however, an ardent and punctilious worker, with a passion for technique. Moreover, he had the courage to paint on the grand scale. There is not one of his works, from the vast mural composition he did for the Lycée Lakanal (Homage to Le Nôtre, 1936) to the least of his still lifes, which is not monumental in conception. His scenes from everyday life, studio settings, or groupings of familiar objects, are peopled with a whole mythology of figures, symbols and monsters, representing the palpable background of life, be it morbid or exalting. Each picture is the expression of a state of mind in which the painter's reasons for living, his obsessions, even the necessity for his death and destruction, are at stake. He dreamed of finding a great technique that would make art intelligible to all. In his last years of serious illness, his work became more and more austere and abstract. The greater his body's struggle against the tuberculosis that was draining its strength, the more his painting freed itself from the morbid and hallucinatory. His very last paintings attained a purity that indicated his approaching end. They were angular nudes shut up in a closed, stifling world that was reduced to the red hangings, the grey walls and the floor of a studio, or large canvases inspired by the movement of trees, with elongated young bodies in the midst of imaginary forests.
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