Georges Braque (1882-1963)
Georges Braque was born in Argenteuil-sur-Seine on May 13, 1882. His father, a house painter, painted canvases on Sundays. Early in his life Braque became interested in painting himself. In 1899 he became an apprentice to his father, then to a painter-decorator. At the same time, he took drawing classes with Eugène Quignolot. After his military service, he decided to apply himself to painting, and enrolled at the Académie Humbert to study fine arts. In 1906 he discovered Fauvist painting and the work of Matisse and Derain. This would have an incontestable influence on the young artist, who thus began to experiment with colour. The following year in 1907 he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants, where he met Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who would become his first dealer. The next year it was Cézanne’s work that influenced Braque’s practice. During this period he painted La Petite Baie de La Ciotat. Beginning in 1907 he stayed in the South regularly, and the landscapes of L’Estaque inspired many of his canvases such as Paysage à l’Estaque. The same year he made a decisive acquaintance when he crossed paths with Pablo Picasso. Picasso had just painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a painting that made a significant impression on Braque.
Braque visited Picasso’s studio in Bateau-Lavoir. The two men worked together, laying the groundwork for Cubism. Braque painted le Grand Nu, a work that proved to be an essential foundation in the birth of this artistic movement. ‘[With Picasso]’, Braque explained, ‘we were guided by a shared idea. We lived in Montmartre, we saw each other and spoke every day, visiting each other’s studio … We were like mountain-climbers, roped together.’ In 1908, Braque organised his first exhibition of ‘Cézannian Cubism’. Together with Picasso in 1909 he theorised ‘analytic cubism’. In 1911, Braque became interested in collages, and created compositions in which he applied wallpaper and newspaper onto a canvas.
The war would disrupt the painter’s career. Braque was conscripted and injured, which prevented him from resuming painting until 1917. His close collaboration with Picasso came to an end, however, he continued his cubist experimentation until 1922.
Beginning in the 1930s he became interested in figuration, and worked on classical themes such as Greek mythology and still lifes, continuously reflecting on forms. In particular, he painted Théogonie d’Hésiode (1932) and the series Nappes. ‘Before becoming visible to my eyes,’ explained the artist, ‘everything materialises in my head.’
In 1933, Braque had a retrospective at the Kunsthalle in Basel. From 1939, he took an interest in sculpture. His work is particularly celebrated in France and in the United States. In 1945, Braque became gravely ill. His condition and the experience of war are both reflected in his canvases such as the series Billards. Shortly thereafter in 1948, his work was awarded the Grand Prize in the Painting category at the Venice Biennale. Five years later he was invited to paint the ceiling of the Henri II gallery at the Louvre. He died in 1963 in Paris.
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Art works from Georges Braque
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