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Georges Braque {brahk}, b. May 13, 1882, d. Aug. 31, 1963, in collaboration with Pablo Picasso, was the founder of cubism. After receiving training at the local art school in Le Havre, Braque went to Paris in 1900. There he studied (1902-04) at the Académie Humbert and then at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in the studio of Léon Bonnat. Braque's early works (1903-05) were executed in the mood of early impressionism. Greatly influenced by André Derain, Henri Matisse, and Maurice de Vlaminck, Braque entered (1906 or 1907) his Fauve period, in which he used soft, undulating patterns and brilliant colors. Unlike the other Fauves (see Fauvism), however, he showed an interest in architectonic solidity of composition and an emphasis on strongly defined volumes rather than color and brushwork.

Still Life with Bottle, Fruit, and Napkins

"Still Life with Bottle, Fruit, and Napkins"
by Georges Braque
Private Collection
© 1995 Artists Rights Society


A crucial change in Braque's art came in the fall of 1907, when he rediscovered Paul Cezanne at the memorial exhibitions at the Salon d'Automne and the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery. At this time, he also met Picasso. In the late work of Cezanne, both Braque and Picasso saw a new geometrization of form and new spatial relationships that were to become the basis of cubism. Spurred by his close association with Picasso, whose Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1906-07) has been called "the first painting of the 20th century," Braque transformed his style radically. Within three years, Picasso and Braque invented analytic cubism, a new, completely nonillusionistic and nonimitative method of depicting the visual world. Their concerns were so mutual and their association so intense that in many instances only experts can distinguish Braque's paintings of 1910-12 from those of Picasso. Violin and Pitcher (1910; Kunstmuseum, Basel) is one of the best examples of Braque's analytic cubism. The paintings of this period are all executed in muted greens, grays, ochers, and browns. The objects are fragmented, as though seen from multiple viewpoints. This multiplicity introduced the element of time into vision. These fragments, or cubes, are organized along a grid, thereby creating a compact pictorial structure.

Braque's works from the period 1917-20 are derived compositionally from synthetic cubism, the second phase of cubism, which began about 1914. Much flatter and more variegated in color, they include brightly dotted decorative passages. Around 1930-31, Braque moved to the coast of Normandy in France. As a result, he changed the subjects of his paintings; bathers, beach scenes, and seascapes were now his favorite themes. Stylistically, he became increasingly interested in ornamentation and patterned surfaces. During the late 1930s and early '40s, Braque was drawn to melancholy themes. From 1945, birds were a dominant subject. Braque's canvases done during the 1950s show a return to the brilliant colors of the Fauve period, as in the Louvre ceiling (1952-53) and the decoration for the villa at Saint Paul-de-Vence (1954). Active until the end of his life, Braque produced an oeuvre that includes sculpture, graphics, book illustration, and decorative art.

Magdalena Dabrowski, Curatorial Assistant, Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
Source: The Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Release #9.01, ©1997.
Bibliography: Raymond Cogniat, Georges Braque (1980); Douglas Cooper, Braque: The Great Years (1973); John Elderfield, The "Wild Beasts": Fauvism and Its Affinities (1976); Jean Leymarie, Braque (1961, repr. 1988); Edwin Mullins, The Art of Georges Braque (1968); William Rubin, Picasso and Braque (1990); Karen Wilkin, Georges Braque (1991).
Images: "Still Life with Bottle, Fruit, and Napkins" (Private Collection/Bridgeman Art Library/Copyright 1995 Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York/ADAGP, Paris)
Copyrights Notice and Disclaimer: Images of artists' works displayed throughout this site have been obtained from numerous sources, including digital libraries at educational institutions, educational software, and Mark Harden's Artchive. Credit is attributed when known. Some works are considered to be in the public domain, based on current U.S. and international copyright acts. For more information on copyright laws, please refer to the Artists Rights Society and Benedict O'Mahoney's The Copyright Web Site. [See also: Copyrights.]

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CGFA - Virtual Art Museum
Carol L. Gerten maintains an impressive image library of works by dozens of renowned artists, including this beautifully scanned close-up of Braque's painting, "Still-Life: Le Jour" (1929), on exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. [file size:138KB].

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