Georges Braque was one of the fathers of Cubism. Along with Picasso he explored and invented a new way of painting that got its name from critics who pointed out small cubes in his earliest cubist works. At the end of 1907, Braque met Picasso at the unveiling of The Ladies of Avignon. This piece and a nude by Braque of late 1907 would become known as the first cubist paintings.
Both artists were inspired by Cezanne s use of geometry in representing the subject matter in his painting. These works being some of the first to reject the classical ideas of painting by portraying real subject matter abstractly rather then realistically, it was only natural for the two artists to collaborate on future works. The two began to discuss ideas and show one another their current works. Eventually this collaboration became a like a partnership where their ideas were freely traded and built upon by one another. At the peak of Analytic Cubism, paintings by Braque and Picasso had great similarities and the pair often painted the same subject matter at the same time. They worked so close Braque once said that they were like mountain climbers, roped together and pulling one another up.
In 1908 Braque parted from his previous Fauvist style and began to paint in very limited palettes of subdued greens, browns, and ochers. His work became very structured and more abstract. His concern was with space, multiplicity, form, and time rather then with color. The idea was to show the subject from multiple angles.
Picasso s work followed this pattern as well. Braque, however, turned to still lives while Picasso did most of his work with human forms. The differences between the two can be seen in works from the same time frame. Picasso s Vol lard and Braque s Violin with Pitcher are both from 1910.
Picasso s work pushes the foreground back and pulls the background forward mixing the two in order to create space. Braque s work makes use of these same principals to describe the space and the subject matter, bringing them to the same plane. But while Picasso s result is a painting where the subject matter is still predominant, Braque creates a balance between the emphasis of the subject matter and the space around it. Braque creates space that moves within itself and the subject matter forcing it to become part of the subject matter. While Picasso succeeds in losing the definition between the two, he does not succeed in making space become primary in the painting. This further describes the difference in what the two artists felt Cubism was primarily about.
Picasso was known to have once said Cubism is an art dealing primarily with forms, while Braque stated What especially attracted me - and what was the preoccupation of cubism - was the materialization of that new space which I sensed. Although their collaboration ended when Braque went into World War I and spanned only seven years, the benefits of working so closely with one another is easily seen through the rapidity with which Braque and Picasso developed their ideas and their Cubist works evolved. High Analytical Cubism (1910), what is regarded as Cubism s most difficult point, is when the pair worked most closely together. It is during this time that their most abstract works were done. The play of space and form moving into one another, the opening up of previously closed forms, and the creation of irregular planes succeeded in turning Cubist works into an object of their own, no longer a representation of something. In 1911 Braque introduced lettering to Cubism.
This would be the starting point for what would become known as Synthetic Cubism. On this Braque said as part of a desire to come close to a certain sort of reality, in 1911 I introduced letters into my paintings. This move was the first step towards the collage work of both Braque and Picasso which brought the abstract into reality. Synthetic Cubism brought on the use of color, and materials previously unused by Braque or Picasso in their Cubist works. They began to use materials such as wood printed vinyl, newspaper, and rags. Shapes became larger and more recognizable.
The use of these materials was to further the idea of creating a unity between reality and abstract cubism, as well as in some cases to show that some things which are perceived as reality are actually not, such as vinyl made to look like wood panel, while the paint in the abstract cubist work is just that and therefore real. It was during the exploration of collage in Cubism that not only words that appeared in newspapers were cut out, but even larger advertisements. In Braque s Glass and Bottle from 1913, a large cutout of an almost complete furriers ad is glued to the canvas. This type of ad, one that is for objects of desire for the general public, could be seen as a further reach into the idea of bringing together reality and the new Cubist reality. Objects already easily recognizable by the average man were being used, the use of ads such as these could have been used in order to not only fuse the two realities, but to force those of the public into the Cubist reality.
Ads, which were very popular in Paris and around the world at the time, were something that used to catch the interest of the public. An ad in the painting could be used to the same effect and pull the viewer into it. Braque s painting Candlestick and Playing Cards (1910) is an example of Analytic Cubism at its peak. The use of an oval canvas, as is found in High Analytic Cubism, was intended to remove the problem of the corners of Cubist painting. The internalized structure and geometry used in bringing the subject matter and space surrounding it becomes weaker as it moves towards the corners, so an oval boarder leaves the painting stronger. In addition to this the curved edge creates a strong contrast with the harder angles, shape, and lines within, which makes a dynamic energy inside the boarder.
The table is seen through the jutting angle at the bottom. Further back the base of the candlestick is seen on top of the table. Further up, above center is the candlestick itself. To the right are two playing cards, the ace of hearts, and the six of diamonds.
The form of the candlestick is lost, then found again before being lost once again. This is a direct example of how form, space, and differing perspective are used in Cubism to create an abstract reality, independent of time. The colors Braque uses are grays, opaque and translucent blacks, and browns. These are used to create a unity between the subject and space through a lack of definition.
They also provide irregular shadow and edges to create forms and planes that overlap and move into one another. These planes and forms change from one into the other and move from background to foreground and vice versa making a two dimensional image from what, when looked at individually is made up of three dimensional forms and planes. Cogniat, Raymond, Braque, Crown Publishers, 1978 Gallatin, A. E. , Georges Braque: Essay and Bibliography, Witten born and Co. 1943 Golding, John, Cubism, Harvard University Press, 1988 Hilton, Timothy Picasso, Thames and Hudson, 1975 Fry, Edward, Cubism, Oxford University Press 1980.