15 Jan 2014

Bracque again

Yes, I have to return to this fantastic restrospective exhibition that has recently closed in Paris of the work of Braque. I may well do so again, such was the density and interest of this show.

I mentioned in my previous article on Georges Braque that his work probably started to change again after the shock caused by the First World War. But this is not all that evident in the chronology of the show, since the almost completely cubist period, in one form or another, actually lasted until well into the 1930's, as the image below shows. He clearly had to pick up where he left off in 1914, but changes there were.

This painting, called "The musician", dates from 1917-18, but it already shows a significant change in the preoccupations of Braque's work as it reintroduces colour as a major element of the composition. Now let's look back to 1907 and see how things have turned around with regard to Braque's relationship with colour, as in this painting of a woman's back.

Colour is clearly a major ingredient of the impact of this work which dates from the early years of the 20th century and Bracque's "fauvist" period, in which form and shape is also of growing importance, as is shown in this painting. Just a year later, form, and its breaking down into geometrical components, had taken over from colour, the use of which which had become very much more subdued, as in the painting below, of a similar subject.

As I said in the first article, one can then clearly trace the decline of the role of colour in the hierarchy of Braque's interests, and the corresponding rise of the analysis of form and the creation of a type of synthetic vision that we call, for want of a better word, cubism.

Possible inspirations for this line of work can be seen in architectural situations like this one, from the Normandy village called Varangeville where Braque had a studio.

A beginning of what was to be gradual abandonement of what Bracque possibly saw as a dead-end in the pursuit of cubist exploration shows in the painting above, dating from 1939, and which, while continuing the use of many subject matters that had served him throughout the cubist phase (musicians and their instruments for example, and here we should remember that Bracque was himself a good musician), is also in a much freeer, more playful style and includes the use of colour.

Later still-lifes and studio interior paintings take this playfulness much further, moving away from the systematic approach of cubism. This painting also shows that black was always an important colour with Bracque, at least after the fauvist period. And he never seemd to find the sky again (see the previous article). The still life below, which dates from 1942, shows yet another shift towards greater simplification of forms and composition in a way that parallels that of Matisse, for instance, and which introduces his final period of work.

Parallels between Bracque and Picasso have often been drawn. Whilst the two had an intense relationship of exchanges during the early cubist period, Bracque had perhaps a more studious and less spontaneous appraoch to panting then Picasso, as show in this painting of the artist and his model, a theme also much used by Picasso in a different vein.

More to come on Bracque probably, as and when I find suitable images to illustrate it. But we will also move to Dürer shortly, as I recently saw a fantastic exhibition of this great Grema,n artist's work In Franfurt am Main.