Seascape. L’Estaque, Georges Braque, 1906

March 2, 2010

The artist:

Best known as Picasso’s friend and co-pioneer in cubism, Braque (1882-1963) went through all the artistic phases you’d imagine for the time.  Except the one for which he was trained : house painting!  Starting out with an impressionist bent, the French painter-sculptor switched to a mild form of Fauvism after seeing the 1905 exhibit.  Then, after seeing a Cézanne exhibit in 1907, he headed in a different direction with his famous friend.

Together, they developed (I’m simplifying) Analytic Cubism, with its monochromatic palette (think brownish-gray) and a broken, virtually unrecognizable depiction of the subject matter.  Moreover, their works were virtually indistinguishable from one another!  Though Picasso gets more of the spotlight, it was actually Braque’s  work that inspired art critic Louis Vauxcelles to describe their style as cubism.

That changed when Georges Braque enlisted in WWI.  He came back  in 1917 wounded and with a new style, one that seems a little surprising in a war veteran.  His approach, though still inspired by cubist technique (he became close with Juan Gris), featured a softer touch, color, and in contrast to his work with Picasso, the appearance of recognizable human beings.

The painting:

1906, Oil on canvas, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

In the background, you can see a few houses in the fishing village L’Estaque, near Marseille.  This work employs clearly Fauvist techniques (bold color with no concern for realism).

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