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Georges Braque was born 140 years ago today
Braque in 1963
Photo by Luc Fournol
Georges Braque was born 140 years ago today.
Braque was a major 20th century French painter, collagist, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor.
His most important contributions to the history of art were in his alliance with Fauvism from 1906, and the role he played in the development of Cubism.
Braque’s work between 1908 and 1912 is closely associated with that of his colleague, Pablo Picasso. Their respective Cubist works were indistinguishable for many years, yet the quiet nature of Braque was partially eclipsed by the fame and notoriety of Picasso.
Braque was born in Argenteuil, Val-d'Oise. He grew up in Le Havre and trained to be a house painter and decorator like his father and grandfather.
However, he also studied artistic painting during evenings at the École des Beaux-Arts, in Le Havre, from about 1897 to 1899.
In Paris, he apprenticed with a decorator and was awarded his certificate in 1902. The next year, he attended the Académie Humbert, also in Paris, and painted there until 1904.
It was here that he met Marie Laurencin and Francis Picabia.
Braque's earliest works were impressionistic, but after seeing the work exhibited by the artistic group known as the "Fauves" (Beasts) in 1905, he adopted a Fauvist style.
The Fauves, a group that included Henri Matisse and André Derain among others, used brilliant colors to represent emotional response.
Braque worked most closely with the artists Raoul Dufy and Othon Friesz, who shared Braque's hometown of Le Havre, to develop a somewhat more subdued Fauvist style.
In 1906, Braque traveled with Friesz to L'Estaque, Antwerp and then home to Le Havre to paint.
Braque's paintings of 1908–1913 reflected 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, seeming to question the most standard of artistic conventions.
In his village scenes, for example, Braque frequently reduced an architectural structure to a geometric form approximating a cube, yet rendered its shading so that it looked both flat and three-dimensional by fragmenting the image. He showed this in the painting Houses at l'Estaque.
Beginning in 1909, Braque began to work closely with Pablo Picasso who had been developing a similar proto-Cubist style of painting.
At the time, Picasso was influenced by Gauguin, Cézanne, African masks and Iberian sculpture while Braque was interested mainly in developing Cézanne's ideas of multiple perspectives.
A decisive time of its development occurred during the summer of 1911, when Braque and Picasso painted side by side in Céret in the French Pyrenees, each artist producing paintings that are difficult — sometimes virtually impossible — to distinguish from those of the other.
In 1912, they began to experiment with collage and Braque invented the papier collé technique.
Braque died in the summer of 1963 at the age of 81 in Paris.
Balustre et Cranem, 1938
Painting by Georges Braque