Viaduct at L'Estaque is an artwork of the medium, oil on canvas, with dimensions of 72.5 cm., height, and 59 cm., width, created in 1908 by the great French painter, Georges Braque (1882-1963).
The artist's most important contributions to the history of art were through his major roles in the developments of the styles of Fauvism (1904-07), along with Henri Matisse, and later of Cubism, after the death of Paul Cézanne, and having met Pablo Picasso and studied the latter's radical new work, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. This picture now hangs in the Museum of Modern Art, The Pompidou Centre, in Paris, France.
From 1906-1910, Braque made several trips to L'Estaque, a small port in the South of France, just south and west of the cities of Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, respectively. This painting depicts a charming Arcadian landscape with the symmetrical viaduct providing the background, and rolling hills and rural houses the foreground.
Along with Houses at L'Estaque, created in the same year, Braque jettisons the brilliant, non-naturalistic colours of Fauvism and now focusses on structural issues that had so preoccupied Cézanne and now consumed Picasso. The forms of the buildings are totally simplified and the correct illusion of depth is virtually ignored. The trees defy true perspective and force forward even the most distant house. The canvas is not a window but merely a flat surface in front of us.
The picture plane has been fractured in order to offer several viewpoints. The work has become a fundamental analysis of Braque's vision and of its representation, almost rejecting aesthetic concerns entirely. "The hard-and-fast rules of perspective...were a ghastly mistake which...has taken four centuries to redress", he remarked in 1957. Indeed, one tree is so artificial that it appears to be actually part of the viaduct, and a mysterious light brown post is suspended in the background.
Braque has also been quoted as saying, "Reality only reveals itself when it is illuminated by a ray of poetry." Like Cézanne, who had painted in this area before him, he reduces the scene to simple fragmented and reconstructed geometric forms, but Braque surpasses the former's solid masses with tilting planes that obey his own, rather than natural, laws.
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