Georges Braque was born on May 13, 1882, in Argentueuil-sur-Seine. His father was the owner of a paint store. In 1890 the family moved with their business to Le Havre. There Braque received his first inspirations in the field of painting. He complemented his apprenticeship as decorative painter (1897 — 99) by visiting evening classes at the art school in Le Havre. In 1900 Braque moved to Paris, the metropole of art. After his military service in 1901/02 he studied painting at the private Académie Hubert and became intensely involved with the Pointillism of Paul Signac. At the same time he befriended Raoul Dufy, Othon Friesz, Marie Laurencin, and Francis Picabia and through these friendships belonged to the circle of the Paris Avantgarde. In 1905 he came under the influence of the Fauves. Especially the varicoloured »Kolorit« (Atmosphere) and the van Gogh-oriented pastose color application of the »Sauvages,« like Henry Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, and André Derain characterized his way of painting.
In the footsteps of Paul Cézanne, Braque visited L’Estaque, a town close to Marseilles, already in 1906. The following year, 1907, was of great significance for Braque’s development as an artist. He saw the large Cézanne retrospective at the Paris autumn salon and, after that, analytically engaged with Cézanne’s pictorial architecture. During the same year, he also saw the Demoiselles d’Avignon in Picasso’s studio. A dialogue between the two artists based on friendship and artistic interest developed that also included, until 1914, shared studio work and traveling. Also in 1907, Braque received a contract with the Galerie Kahnweiler where his work was presented in a solo exhibition only a year later.
The years 1908 until 1914 were entirely shaped by Braque’s collaboration with Picasso. Together with Picasso, he developed Analytic Cubism. With this he followed Cézanne’s request to treat nature and real things as if they consisted of cylinders, spheres, cones, and cuboids – meant to be unified and newly arranged through earth-colored »Kolorit« (atmosphere), interspersed with black and white. Multiple perspectives combined in layers of planes produce a curving, multifocal pictorial reality that is ruptured through edges and angularities. Starting in 1912, Braque enriched this reality with collaged remains of wallpaper, title pages of newspapers or fragmented lettering taken from advertisements. Concentrating on the motif of the still-life, Braque engaged – fully in the classical-historical sense of this pictorial genre – with aspects of time (e. g. the »Journal« and »Temps« fragments) and the five human senses: string instruments = hearing; pealings of fruit, bottles, glasses = taste; the multifocal showing of things = seeing; collages or Trompe-l’œil-effects = tactile sense. Unlike Picasso, who tended to connect s-shaped contours of violins, guitars, and mandolins to the allure of a female torso, Braque’s instruments do refer to a world of sound inside of the picture. Each of his compositions therefore attained a very specific rhythm of shape and color. Like music, Braque’s cubist forms of representation possess close affinities to mathematics and geometry.
With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Braque became a soldier, suffered a severe head injury, and only took up his work as an artist again in 1920. For the phase after 1920, Synthetic Cubism still remained relevant. However, Braque started to focus again on the work of Henri Matisse and was always aware of the experiments of Picasso going on at the same time. Braque now also turned towards sculpting and graphic prints.
Braque’s later work was dominated by the eight large Intérieurs of his studio, done in the years between 1949 and 1956. In these compositions the influence of photography and film of the time becomes highly visible. Pictures that may be read as confessions emerged, explaining all of Braque’s artistic positions: the crafts-oriented foundation of his youth and of his art reception, the mental questioning of seeing, of representation and of the synaesthetic qualities of expression, and, finally, the creation of an admonishing mememto mori anchored in the context of his time.
During the final 15 years of his work Braque achieved international renown: In 1961, the Louvre honored him with the retrospective »L’Atelier de Braque.« More recently, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, and the BA-CA Art Forum, Vienna were among the institutions that dedicated large exhibitions to his work (1988; 2002; 2008).
Georges Braque died on August 21, 1963, in Paris.
Georges Braque – Lyrik der Geometrie. Eine Retrospektive: Ausst.-Kat. BA-CA Kunstforum, hg. v. I. Brugger, H. Eipeldauer, C. Messensee, Wien 2008
Rose, B.B.; Gunning, T. (Hg.): Picasso, Braque and early film in Cubism, New York 2007
Duthuit, G.; Labrusse, R.: Le Fauves. Braque, Derain, van Gongen, Dufy, Friesz, Paris 2006
Danchev, A.: Georges Braque – a life, London 2005
Braque: Ausst.-Kat. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid 2002
Georges Braques graphisches Werk aus der Sammlung C.S.: Ausst.-Kat. Westfäl. Landesmuseum, Münster 1991
Georges Braque: Ausst.-Kat. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, N.Y.; Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, München 1988
Worms de Romilly, N.; Laude J.: Braque – Le cubisme fin 1907 — 1914: Werkverzeichnis, Paris 1982