Thursday, July 19, 2012

Braque, Georges

Barques sur la plage à L'Estaque (Boats on the Beach at L'Estaque)
oil on canvas
38.1 x 46 cm (15.0 x 18 1/8 in.)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Georges Braque (1882 - 1963) was a major 20th-century French painter and sculptor who, along with Pablo Picasso, developed the art style known as Cubism. He grew up in Le Havre and trained to be a house painter and decorator like his father and grandfather. However, he also studied serious painting in the evenings at the École des Beaux-Arts, in Le Havre. In Paris, he apprenticed with a decorator and was awarded his certificate.

His earliest works were impressionistic, but after seeing the work exhibited by the Fauves in 1905, Braque adopted a Fauvist style. The Fauves, a group that included Henri Matisse and André Derain, used brilliant colors and loose structures of forms to capture the most intense emotional response.

In 1907, his style began a slow evolution as he came under the strong influence of Paul Cézanne, who died in 1906. The 1907 Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d'Automne greatly impacted the direction that the avant-garde in Paris took, leading to the advent of Cubism. His oil paintings began to reflect his new interest in geometry and simultaneous perspective. He conducted an intense study of the effects of light and perspective and the technical means that painters use to represent these effects, appearing to question the most standard of artistic conventions.

Beginning in 1909, he began to work closely with Picasso, who had been developing a similar approach to oil painting. The invention of Cubism was a joint effort between Picasso and Braque, then residents of Montmartre, Paris. Their productive collaboration continued and they worked closely together until the outbreak of World War I in 1914 when Braque enlisted in the French Army, leaving Paris to fight in the First World War. Braque was severely wounded in the war, and when he resumed his artistic career in 1917 he moved away from the harsher abstraction of cubism. Working alone, he developed a more personal style, characterized by brilliant color and textured surfaces and the reappearance of the human figure. He painted many still life subjects during this time, maintaining his emphasis on structure.

He continued to work throughout the remainder of his life, producing a considerable number of distinguished oil paintings, graphics, and sculptures, all imbued with a pervasive contemplative quality. He died on 31 August 1963, in Paris. He is buried in the church cemetery in Saint-Marguerite-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.