Georges Braque - Artist Biography with a full Portfolio of his Most Famous Paintings and Drawings
Georges Braque was a key influence in the rise of the Cubist art movement in the 20th century, alongside Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and Fernand Leger.
Braque was skilled in several artistic disciplines, such as painting, collage, drawing and sculpture. This was an artist who had passion for his work but less desire to attract fame and fortune, leaving that to others with whom he was connected. The French capital, Paris, was a melting pot of artist inspiration and ideas during the early 20th century and Braque's period living here was amongst the most significant in his life. Countless artists and other creatives of around this time would mix together and draw new influences into their work.
Georges Braque's early art works were impressionist in style but he started to change as more influences came into his life and career. Fauvists like Henri Matisse were making an impression at that stage and Braque started to produce work more in line with that movement. Paul Cezanne was then the next major influence upon artist Braque, and elements of his style were picked up by a new movement known as Cubism, which was to boast the membership of Braques, Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and Fernand Leger. Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Marcel Duchamp are other famous names to also have been involved with this contemporary art movement that one of the more significant developments in 20th century art.
Swiss abstract artist, Paul Klee, was also to spend periods of his career developing Cubist work and those influences were part influenced by French exhibitions from the likes of Robert Delaunay. As this movement gained momentum, it's original members like Braque would start to receive critical acclaim for their contributions. Picasso's name over shadows all others involved with the Cubists, but enough light has been shone onto this period to uncover more on the supporting cast. Over time there was a further development of the style into a range of different approaches and these would later receive their own specific labels in order to help us to differentiate between them. These would become known as Analytical Cubism and Synthetic Cubism. There was not the same level of conflict as found in other movements, as several of its members would happily work collaboratively, which is precisely how Picasso and Braque came up with the concept of Cubism in the first place.
Braque was someone who used a variety of techniques within his career, often using several together in the same artwork. He had developed several methods prior to even becoming a professional artist such as his wood effect and also the use of lettering on surfaces. He would then sometimes use natural resources to add a tactile nature to his work, trying to merge the gap between painting and sculpture. Pebbles and sand can be seen, for example, as well as manmade items such as wallpaper and newspaper. He and Picasso would regularly take ideas from each other in that regard, with Picasso probably being the first one to use copies of French newspapers within their glued pieces. See Fruit Dish and Glass for an example of some these techniques. They were competitive with each other, but in a positive environment, where there was a desire to take their exciting new ideas ever onwards. They would eventually diverge in styles as time went on, but their years of collaboration were amongst their own most productive and inventive periods respectively.
Prior to his cubist work, Braque was a passionate landscape painter who worked within the style of Fauvism. This movement is categorised by its use of bright, often clashing, colour schemes which produced a bright and positive series of depictions of the French countryside. This artist liked to capture small harbours during this time, as well as mountainous regions and also lakes and rivers. The vivid nature of these works seemed to be a direct challenge to the stale periods of the Renaissance, as they may have seen them, and also perhaps a desire to move landscape art onwards from the successful period of French Impressionism. Whilst being a long way from the cubist period of his career, in terms of style, the unrealistic, expressive use of colour is perhaps an early sign of the direction that the likes of Braque were heading. Most are aware of Braque's career via Picasso and therefore now him only as a cubist painter, but there is much more besides within his career oeuvre, and much of it is starting to receive a greater focus in the present day. Some of Braque's fauvist landscape paintings included Landscape at La Ciotat, Yellow Seacoast and L'Estaque.
"...The things that Picasso and I said to one another during those years will never be said again, and even if they were, no one would understand them anymore. It was like being roped together on a mountain..."
After a period of war in which he did not work, Braque continued his career in 1916 and set about developing a more unique, original style of his own. He spent less time in the company of others for a number of years, partly due to the logistical problems of travel at that time. Braque softened up some of his abstract work (prior to this, the likes of Violin and Candlestick were amongst his busiest) and also concentrated on choice of colour, embracing a brighter look as well as seeking to continue to improve his understanding of structure within his compositions. He kept busy throughout his remaining years, later spending time with Matisse and Gris from time to time. Commissioned pieces also came in as his reputation peaked and also the wider art public would accept the merits of the cubist collective. He also continued to try out different mediums and techniques, never really running out of ideas, even into his seventies. Sculpture would also appear within his oeuvre, as he attempted to add a tactile, third dimension to the same themes and content that were found in his paintings and drawings.
As mentioned previously, the artist continued to innovate right up to his death in 1963, at the age of 81. Whilst Matisse had produced cut-out paintings, such as Icarus, in order to cope with his own failing health, Braque had chosen to also enter new technical challenges. There were book illustrations which have long since interested some of the world's greatest painters and draughtsmen (e.g. Botticelli/Dante's Divine Comedy), plus also a number of etchings, lithographs and aquatints. By this stage of his career, Braque enjoyed an impressive selection of contacts within French art and so could call upon specialists in these different fields when entering them for the first time. There is nothing unusual about this, as many artists like to work collaboratively in any case, and to learn a new discipline to the same level as a specialist that has done it for many decades, would be entirely unrealistic and also take away time from later projects elsewhere. Within the realms of art history, many have called on the services of specialist etchers to be able to print copies of their work whilst sculptors have also been used for access to some of the considerable amounts of materials and tools needed for that art form.
Academics have examined the words of Braque in order to better understand his work. He was quoted as explaining that he used a fairly sombre colour scheme within his early cubist paintings purely for the reason that he wanted form to take precedence at that stage of his career. He understood how the colours of his fauvist pieces had excited us, but also distracted in a way that he didn't want repeated in this series of work. He would, of course, later return to bright colour schemes and so he was clearly constantly choosing between whether to lead the viewer with colour or form. He would also later explain that still life work appealed to him in how he could touch the elements of his scene, which was not realistically possible with his earlier landscapes, where large expanses of space would be covered. He could also see every item of his still life arrangements from different angles and this was one of the points to cubism, where more information could be delivered to the viewer about these objects, rather than just what could be seen from a single perspective.
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