• BRAQUE, Georges

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      • Georges Braque.   French painter. He was born in Argenteuil. At Le Havre, from 1889, he worked as apprentice to his father, a house painter. He moved to Paris in 1900 and then studied at the free Academic Humbert (1902-4). In 1905 he was deeply impressed by the room of Fauve paintings at the Salon d'Automne (including Matisse, Derain and Braque's friends from Le Havre, b> Friesz and Dufy). The landscapes that Braque painted (1906-7) at Antwerp (e.g. Harbour Scene, Antwerp, 1906), L'Estaque and Le Ciotat are in freely broken strokes of strong colour. Braque considered these his 1st creative works.

        In 1907, like so many of his generation, he was overwhelmed by the Cezanne Memorial Exhibition at the Salon d'Automne and this revelation was followed by his meeting with Picasso and the disconcerting distortions of the Demoiselles d'Avignon. Braque's ruthlessly simplified sombre-coloured landscapes and figures, e.g. Nude (1907-8), of the next 2 years show the extent of his change of direction and prepare the way for the development of Cubism. Braque is credited with the introduction into Cubist painting of typography (in Le Portugais, 1911) and of the decorator's techniques of wood-graining and marbling, but Cubism was essentially the product of a remarkable partnership with Picasso ('marriage' was Picasso's word) which was broken by the war and Braque's call up in 1914. Cubism established above all the self-sufficient existence of the work of art, independent of reality, that was implicit in Cezanne's late landscapes. In looking beyond the superficial appearance of their subjects, Picasso and Braque created a precedent which has contributed in one way or another to most subsequent developments in European painting and sculpture, both figurative and abstract.

        Seriously injured in 1915, Braque returned to Paris in 1917 where, apart from summers at Varengeville, he spent the rest of his life. His earliest post-war paintings returned to synthetic Cubism with a stronger palette; La Musicienne (1917-18).

        From 1920, although still related to his Cubist experience in their formal improvisation, his paintings are less obviously disciplined. The qualities which distinguished his Cubist paintings from Picasso's - his fluent painterliness and his natural ability as a rich but subtle colourist - predominate in a work like Guitar and Jug (1927). The still-life remained his principal theme from the Gueridon series (1927-30) to the climactic Atelier series (1949-55) in which the scope of the still-life extends to include the studio, the artist, his model and even the painting itself. The mysterious presence of the bird in flight is gently evocative in this as in other works by Braque, and the mood of his whole oeuvre - apart fromm his short-lived excursion into Surrealism in the early 1930s - is serene and harmonious.

      • Source: The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art and Artists (World of Art)

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