Georges Braque Biographies

Georges Braque was born in Argenteuil, on 13th May,1882.
His grandfather owned a paint-shop and his father settled in Le Havre in 1890.
The smells of oil, white lead, and minium, and of brine and tar from the harbour, were familiar to him from his earliest childhood.
His artistic vocation seemed to him to be a natural continuation of the family tradition, and he remained faithful to it in spite of the many distractions of his boyhood.
While still at school, he attended evening classes in the School of Fine Arts.

Biographies Georges Braque
Georges Braque Signature
Cubist Movement

He spent his spare time strolling strong the quays fringed with bird-shops sailor’s taverns, and shipping offices, or wandering about the docks where the great sailing ships lay at anchor.
He had a happy youth; robustly built, he swam, rowed, boxed and cycled with enthusiasm. He was wery fond of music and took flute lessons with Raoul Dufy’s (Le Havre 1877 – Forcalquier 1953) brother.
In 1900, he went to Paris to finish his apprenticeship, but was called up for military service almost at once. Demobilized in 1902, he enrolled in the Académie Humbert, which he deserted for two months only to join Raoul Dufy and Friesz, his friends from Le Havre, in the school of Fine Arts.
He spent the summer of 1904 at Honfleur with Raoul Dufy, and several weeks in 1906 with Achille-Émile Othon Friesz, dit Othon Friesz, (Havre 1879-Paris 1949 ) in Antwerp, where he painted his first Fauve pictures.

Fauvism had burst upon an astonished world the year before, when Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (Le Cateau-Cambrésis 1869 – Nice 1954) exhibited his first landscapes of Collioure and Saint-Tropez, with their large patches of pure colour.

André Derain (Chatou 1880- Garches 1954), Maurice de Vlaminck (Paris 1876 – Rueil-la-Gadelière 1958 )  and Friesz hastened to his support and contributed, together with Raoul Dufy, Marquet (Bordeaux 1875-Paris 1947) Rouault,  Kees van Dongen (Delfshaven 1877 – Monte Carlo 1968)   and Louis André Valtat (Dieppe 1869 – Paris 1952) to the famous Autumn Salon of 1905 which excited the fury of the diehard supporters of academic tradition and the protests of the last stalwarts of Impressionism.
George Braque Fauve’s period was of short duration, and his represented by no more than a score of paintings. He appreciated the revolutionary nature of the movement, particularly the categorical and long overdue rejection of the traditional, linear perspective, chiaroscuro and modelling, but he was far too lucid and reflective an artist to give way to delirious enthusiasm, like Derain and Vlamink, or to sacrifice form to colour like Henri Matisse.
In Braque’s Fauve pictures, the pure colors are less violent, the objects are more clearly defined, the construction more careful and the close connection between the colouring and the drawing characteristic of his later style is already evident.
He is not trying to extend the limits of his art, but to define them; not to multiply the means at his command, but to use them more economically, and with greater effect.
Many of these works are almost monochromes; by using different shades of single colour, he endows is with an unsuspected power of evocation.
For a Fauve, he was singularly moderate and discreet.
In 1906 after exhibiting six landscapes in the Salon des Indépendents, Braque spent the winter at l’Estaque in southern France, where Cezanne had been painting only a short time before. The summer of 1907, found him at La Ciotat, were he was joined by Friesz; then he returned to l’Estaque.
In the pictures of this period, his style is simpler, but what it loses in subtlety, it gains in vividness, as may be seen by comparing his Antwerp Harbour with the La Ciotat and l’Estaque landscapes.

 

Biographies Georges Braque
Georges Braque Signature
Cubist Movement

A few splashes of colour; short strokes and dots applied thickly and heavily, the outlines firmly drawn with the brush; a few unpainted patches of white canvas here and there to rest the eyes all these combine to make a unified and coherent whole.

Soon the stokes become longer and less angular, as in the ample arabesque of the House behind the trees, but these graceful curves in turn give way to a severer, more angular style.
The composition becomes more rigid and the colours darker and the George Braque’s Fauve period is over.
He was moving now towards a totally different style, doubtless under the influence of Cézanne, whose work had made a great impression to him, particularly when he visited l’Estaque again in 1908.
In that year as nearly all his pictures had been rejected by the Salon d’Autumne, he exhibited that at Kahnweiler’s in the rue Vignon.
The art critic Vauxcelles saw them, and complained that George Braque had reduced everything to ‘ geometrical diagrams and little cubes “, thereby unwittingly inventing a name for the new movement of which George Braque and Pablo Picasso were the founders and remain the truest representatives.

The two artists, who first met in 1907, at the Apollinaire’s home, soon became life-long friends. The whole of the greatest of Cubism, until the outbreak of the First World War, was dominated by their experiments, undertaken concurrently or in collaboration.
It is generally believed that the first Cubist painting was Picasso’s Young Ladies of Avignon (1907), but the same claim might be made for George Braque’s Tall Man, Nude, which belongs to the same year.

The Cubist vision is already expressed with masterly skill in a series of landscapes he painted at l’Estaque in 1908, and at La Roche-Guyon and in Normandy in 1909.
The main movement in these pictures is vertical; the trees are mere trunks, and the house little more than polyhedral shapes; the only colours, apart from brown, black and grey, are dull blues and greens.
The planes are reduced to their simplest possible forms and volumes vigorously defined.
In short, the artist makes the appearance of the natural world conform to the own geometrical conception of it. Yet would be wrong to accuse him of deliberate distortion.

George Braque did not consciously choose to paint in the Cubist manner as other artists have painted in the Symbolist or Abstract manner. He admitted himself:” I was Cubist without know it“.
He now abandoned landscapes for still-life, which satisfied his growing desire for simple forms and sharply-defined volumes.

Biographies Georges Braque
Georges Braque
Still Life with Musical Instruments 1918

This is the period of musical instruments and scores, tables and bowls of fruit. In his Violin and Jug, begun at the end of 1909, and finished early in 1910, with its juxtaposed planes, overlapping volumes, straight lines contrasting with curves, cones, cylinders, inverted perspective, and sober colouring, it is easy to see both how much George Braque owes to Cézanne and how far he has outstripped him. It is clearly only a short step from this pictures to Cubism proper.
In 1910 George Braque and Pablo Picasso were meeting nearly every day to discuss their experiments and discoveries.
In 1911 they spent the summer together at Céret, and in 1912 at Sorgues. So close was their collaboration that it is difficult to distinguish between their works; the pictures of both artists are often oval in shape, and frequently contain letters of the alphabet; and both show the same interest in Papier collés and marble or wood surfaces.

The letters which George Braque continued to use for many years, first appeared in The Portuguese Man (1911). In the picture he painted at this time, the coulours black, beige or grey-blue, applied with little, delicate touches, are of only secondary importance.
The painted was preoccupied with problems of forms and space, and the Cubist solution of these problems was as revolutionary as that Leon Battista Alberti and Paolo Uccello five centuries before.

For the Cubist set himself no less a task than the complete and simultaneous depiction of a tree-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface; hence the splitting up of the object into its components, the various planes, as it were, unrolled or unfolded on the canvas, so that the inside can be seen as well as the outside, while a system of multiples perspectives ensures that all the separate fragments form a coherent whole.

Biographies Georges Braque
Georges Braque
Artist and Model 1939

The word BACH which appears in the centre of the picture painted in 1912, like BAL in The Portuguese Man, has no meaning or intellectual significance.
The purpose in serves is purely artistic; and it was to increase the effect of this elements of “fictitious reality” that George Braque began to introduce elements of “concrete reality” pieces of newspaper, wallpaper, or cardboard into his pictures from 1912 onwards.
In so doing, he invented the “Papier Collé“, and incidentally, saved Cubism from the obscurity and formalism into which it threatened to degenerated.
The strips of paper ingeniously attached to drawings or paintings did not merely delight spectator with the charm of the unexpected; they brought about a notable modification of the Cubist outlook and technique.

The use of the papiers collés obliged the artist to simplify his style, to express himself in a language both more intelligible and more attractive. This change can be seen quite clearly in The Musician’s Table, or Composition with an Ace of Clubs.

The printed letters are still there, but the picture also contains wood, paper, and playing-cards painted with an accuracy deliberately designed to deceive the eye, for Braque has inevitably transferred the papier collé technique to his painting; he includes an optical illusion of this kind in nearly all his laser still-life works, for example, in Parma Violet.
The pictures of this period are frequently painted over a preparatory coat of paint mixed with sand; the objects of this process, which provides a good illustration of Braque’s power of inventing new techniques to satisfy the demands of the creative imagination, was to give the final picture an appearance of greater solidity, and to protect his colours from the distorting effects of reflection.

 

Biographies Georges Braque
Still Life with Musical Instruments 1918 by
Georges Braque

The early attempts to analyze from by breaking them down into their constituent elements-a method which had inevitably led to obscurity,- had given way to a logical, homogeneous, vigorous form of art, of which Braque was undoubtedly the creator.

He was wounded in 1915, and to undergo a brain operation, so that it was not until 1917 that he was able to resume work.
He still painted still-life subjects and musicians, but the style of these works is freer. The colours are applied in broad patches, and the third dimension is emphasized by contrasting geometrical forms.
The picture is no longer built round the central subject, and the attention give to the background wall, the paneling, the paving, or the carpeted floor, shows a new interest in purely decorative effects.
Soon curves appear again and the colours, thought still restrained, are fresher and brighter.
The Newspaper 1919, ushers in a new stage in the artist’s development, and a new style in which only the least controversial elements of Cubism are retained. There severe architectural construction seems to have been eliminated from these works in which the freedom of the drawing and the quiet sumptuousness of the colour give a clear indication of a change in Braque’s outlook.
But the Cubist discipline, thought discreetly hidden, is still there.
Objects which at first sight appear to be floating in space are in fact carefully balanced, for even when George Braque gives the impression of being dominated by his feelings, we can be share that in reality he has them firmly under control.
Excess, whether, lyrical or intellectual, was foreign to his nature, a fact which does credit both to his own genius, and the genius of French painting in general.

Cubism became the most influential style of the first half of the 20th century.
Under the influence of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and tribal art, Picasso and Georges Braque, developed this new style as an extraordinary exploration of the visual properties of form.

They sought a way to capture the three dimensionality of objects without destroying the two dimensionality of the picture.
Georges Braque found a solution by abandoning the tradition of a single viewpoint and moment, and by breaking up objects into shifting planes of simplified form, assembled in a shallow pictorial space.
This work dates from the second phase of Cubism with the return of colors, forms closer to natural appearance, and contours more clearly defined.

It is a poetic composition of gentle edges and muted colors.
George Braque’s style became highly decorative in the 1930s.
Characteristic of his work at this time, he has combined the cubist devices of multiple views and overlapping planes with a naturalistically lit interiors.

Biographies Georges Braque
Georges Braque Signature
Cubist Movement