The early Life and Career of Georges Braque
Georges Braque (1882-1963) was a renowned French painter, sculptor, graphic artist, decorator. Together with a legendary cubist, colleague, and friend Pablo Picasso is considered to be one of the founders of an unusual but extremely captivating cubism art movement. The author of numerous decorative visual arts compositions. He was born in 1882 in a small French town Argenteuil, in the suburbs of Paris. His father decorated interiors and even had his own workshop.
No wonder that his family wanted Braque to continue the tradition and he almost did, but soon got interested in visual arts. In 1902-1904 he visited classes at the fine arts school in Paris, where he got acquainted with many interesting people who shared the same beliefs. It was the place where Braque got fascinated with the most popular artistic tendencies of that time. In 1906, together with Othon Friesz and Raoul Dufy, a future cubist artist started moving towards Fauvism.
He once said that at that time he was inspired mostly by such painters like Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. He creates series of sceneries which are saturated with the strength of the southern sun and bright colors of the Provence geographical region. In those landscapes, there is a traditional image of nature motif, but the explosive power of color and the plastic expression add some sort of unreal and almost unearthly character to the painting.
A distinctive feature of his works during that period was not only a unique decorative beauty but also much more vivid than that of other artists, constructiveness of the composition. Unlike other fauvist painters, Braque paid attention not only to the position of the color elements on the plane of the picture but also to building space. Even at that time, he was inspired by Cezanne more, than by Van Gogh. Braque became pretty successful at selling his fauvist paintings, but soon everything had changed because Picasso came to Paris.
Changes In Style & The Road Towards Cubism
There were two things that completely turned the consciousness of Braque as a fauvist: a large exhibition of Cezanne in 1907 and acquaintance with Pablo Picasso. Cezanne exhibition was a real revelation for many artists of that time. We can say that Cezanne returned space and volume to the contemporary art of that period. Picasso, however, showed some new ways of development of the new art. Influence of Cezanne and Picasso’s works leads to a radical change in the style of Braque.
One of his most famous works of that period – the painting called “Houses at L’Estaque”. A concrete motif here is turned into some sort of a model of the universe. What we actually see in this painting, is not a view of a city, but the image of the world of creation. Instead of the fluid forms that could be seen in his previous works, powerful geometrized volumes appear, a great diversity of colors is replaced by an ascetic range of muted yellowish, greenish and blue-gray tones, which are typical of Cezanne works. Dynamism is combined with unflinching statics.
Some people say that it was this particular work that made Matisse and then some other critics mention the word “cube” when describing it. We all know that this word soon gave birth to a completely new movement, which played such a huge role in the 20th-century art. The creation of cubism, which is considered to be the greatest revolution in art since the Renaissance, was not a result of a laboratory or structural work. Picasso and Braque had no specific plans or ideas.
They just had a great desire to experiment and do something different from the things that had already been done before. They wanted to do it their own way – the way nobody was doing it at that time. Picasso once stated that when they started to paint cubist paintings, their intention was not to invent cubism. They just wanted to express themselves. Their friends, colleagues, poets and other critics were quite skeptical about it. Poets are mentioned here because they also did participate in the discussions about the future of a modern art.
The Meeting of Two Legends & The Beginning of Cubism
Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso got acquainted when a French poet, writer, and critic Guillaume Apollinaire brought Braque to Picasso’s studio, where stood almost finished “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” The first reaction of the future second originator of cubism to this painting was pretty straightforward – this guy is mad! He said that Picasso paints his pictures in such a way as if he doesn’t respect his viewers at all.
However, he pondered a little bit and soon realized how innovative this work was, and what opportunities it could open. They became friends and soon started their fruitful collaboration in the stage of analytic cubism. Braque starts to paint mainly still life paintings in which the “cubes” begin to break into small faces that fill the entire surface of the canvas.
These faces have their own color and direction, seem obtrusive or hollow, bright or dark, soft beautiful strokes are combined with sharp contours. Details of objects arise from abstract forms, but, in accordance with the doctrine of Cubism, the artist doesn’t depict the object. He strives to pass the sum of plastic sensations and main ideas about it. In front of the viewer, there were some extremely abstract, coloristic and rhythmic surfaces enclosed in rectangular or oval frames. The periods of his creative work completely coincided with the phases of the development of cubism. Well, because he shaped them. Together with Picasso, of course.
During the stage of synthetic cubism, Braque, like Picasso fully breaks up with the traditional “nature”. The picture is no longer “analog” of an object, but some kind of a new reality. On a clean surface of the canvas, there was a free game of brightly painted color planes, realistic contour sketches of different objects, inscriptions, and elements of the mounted in the composition live nature – in the form of a collage or painting imitation of pieces of newspaper, wallpaper, labels and so on. With the help of these techniques, the cubism artist achieves new decorative effects and creates a general sense of the life of a modern city, with its rhythms and signs of documentaries – and sometimes even a kind of musical images. (Aria de Bach)
The Difference Between Picasso’s & Braque’s Cubism
Before the First World War, when Picasso and Braque were very close friends, very often their works were pretty much alike, and sometimes were almost indistinguishable. The founders of cubism used to even joke about it. One master could sign the work of the other one and that’s why they made a little mess in the attribution of some of their paintings. Well, maybe, the Braque’s cubism is kinda more rational, and Picasso’s is slightly more insane.
Georges Braque was a Frenchman, and for him, cubism was something more stable, balanced, methodical, a kind of formula, unlike Picasso, for whom it was something crazy and delusional, some sort of a durability test of reality, something that was extremely intuitive, expressive and emotional. We should also remember that Braque was a Fauvist before. That’s why he had to restrain his usage of color. And what concerns Picasso, he disciplined himself on the line usage because he was a born skillful painter.
Still Life Paintings by Cubist Georges Braque
After this, there was a First World War and Braque was drafted into the army. In 1915 he was wounded in the head, underwent a long medical treatment, didn’t come back to the front, but eventually, after 2 years, returned to art. By that time cubism was already pretty much depleted. The former cubist artist didn’t want to witness the caricatures of his own ideas in the works of other contemporary artists. Since the 1920s, Braque uses only a few stylistic elements and techniques of cubism and renounces its abstract tendencies. But, like Picasso and many other modern masters, he relies on that previously found freedom of depicting not only the visible but also conceivable.
Since then his art somehow balances between the nature and the inner world of the artist and becomes some sort of “objectified” poetry. The paintings became imbued with a special spirituality. They strived to convey not so much the look but the inner essence of phenomena. A leading genre in the works of Braque during the 1920s is still life.
He creates mostly series of compositions with numerous objects, such as fireplaces, roundtables and so on. In these visual images, he tries to combine different facets and aspects of the reality and uses a variety of means of expression. As a result, a sense of the almost baroque abundance of life, the interconnectedness and interconversion of things is transmitted with the help of a local image.
His 1920s still life works are characterized by special “Jazz” syncopated rhythms and sharpness of the lines that blend in with the general plasticity of the whole. But perhaps the main distinguishing feature of his works is elegant and austere coloring, the unique harmony of deep and rich in shades yellow and brown, black and green tones, supplemented with white, red or blue. The paintings became imbued with a special spirituality. They strived to convey not so much the look but the inner essence of phenomena. A leading genre in the works of Braque during the 1920s is still life. He creates mostly series of compositions with numerous objects, such as fireplaces, roundtables and so on.
In these visual images, he tries to combine different facets and aspects of the reality and uses a variety of means of expression. As a result, a sense of the almost baroque abundance of life, the interconnectedness and interconversion of things is transmitted with the help of a local image. His 1920s still life works are characterized by special “Jazz” syncopated rhythms and sharpness of the lines that blend in with the general plasticity of the whole. But perhaps the main distinguishing feature of his works is elegant and austere coloring, the unique harmony of deep and rich in shades yellow and brown, black and green tones, supplemented with white, red or blue.
George Braque’s Other Works & Activities Besides Cubism
Along with still life pictures, he also painted series of nude portraits that fascinate the viewer with its powerful plasticity, the breadth of the rhythm and beauty of color. Almost at the same time with these female images some ancient characters called “Canephora” appear in his works – girls with the sacred gifts in the form of fruits and flowers. They look monumental and pretty light at the same time.
Mythologized figures live freely in the space of the artist’s paintings. Later, he repeatedly returned to the ancient themes (the cycle of illustrations for Theogony by Hesiod, numerous lithographs, etchings and plastic works with images of Greek gods and so on). Braque’s style of painting with its range of golden, brown and black tones and refined linearity has something in common with the archaic vase painting.
In the early 1930s, Braque experienced a short influence of surrealism. His paintings acquire a new poetic and spatial breadth, a special coloristic and linear refinement, become be filled with light. In Normandy, he creates series of marine sceneries, then paints the interiors, which place tables with still life or thoughtful women with a combined face and a profile, outlined by the winding “Baroque” contour.
In the 1950s, he paints the lamp shades of the Etruscan hall in Louvre with lapidary images of birds and creates lots of graphics of similar kind. The image of a flying bird in his art turns into the personification of nature, a symbol of freedom and spiritual flight of creativity. He is also famous for his pictures of fish (especially impressive is the work called “The Black Fish”, 1942).
His creative work is not limited to painting and drawing. He created stained-glass windows, refined and expressive sculptures that resemble Greek archaic period, worked as a scenic designer at the theater (decoration of “Diaghilev’s” Ballets in the 20s), as a master of applied arts. Georges Braque is also the author of highly artistic, modern and stylish jewelry, but it is obvious, that most people know him as one of the most famous cubist artists of all time.