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Braque the Fogotten Cubist Master
Although George Braque (May 13, 1882 - Aug. 31, 1963) was one of the most influential painters of the twentieth century his name is all but forgotten. He has received little credit for his efforts towards the creation of analytic cubism. Many art historians believe that his prestigious role as father of analytic cubism was cut short because of Picasso’s fame. Many arguments have arisen asking the question: “Who is the father of cubism?” There is no doubt that Picasso started the spark which ignited modern art movements with the creation of “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon..” But, soon after Picasso created this work Braque created “Houses at L’Estaque.” This painting started the analytic phase of cubism. With this in mind, it can be stated that Picasso is the father of modern twentieth century art and Braque is the father of analytic cubism. George Braque is one of the most influential painters of the twentieth century. He co-worked with Picasso to create cubism and helped spark all the future art movements of the twentieth century. As well as this, he was the influence that made Picasso the fame that he was to become. Braque has never received the recognition he should have because of Picasso’s fame, but his personal position in the art community was high and his involvement with World War One was a major culprits that aided in his downfall in artistic popularity.
“Who the father of cubism?”, has always been a question that has pondered the minds of art historians and scholars. It is clear though that both Braque and Picasso played their prominent role in the creation of cubism. Picasso provided, with his proto-Cubist "Demoiselles," the initial liberating shock. But it was Braque, largely because of his admiration for Cezanne, who provided much of the early tendency toward geometrical forms. Braque’s early tendency towards geometric form and cubes was the spark which ignited the minds of all future cubist artists; including Picasso.
If there is one painting that is possibly one of the most influential images regarding cubism in the twenty first century it is George Braque’s “Houses at L’Estaque.” During the summer of 1908 in southern France, Braque painted a series of radically innovative canvases, of which the most celebrated is “Houses at L’Estaque”; in this painting we can see the slab volumes, sober coloring, and warped perspective typical of the first part of what has been called the analytical phase of Cubism. This painting was shown in a show at Kahnweiler's gallery. It provoked from the Paris critic Louis Vauxcelles a remark about "cubes" that soon blossomed into a stylistic label. This painting was the painting that gave cubism its name. Vauxcelles’s remarked about the canvas being full of small cubes, and this comment was the spark that constituted the name of the movement. Braque undertook Vauxcelles criticisms, much like other movements of the past, and used it for the name of the movement. ( Flam, 144)
In “Houses at L'Estaque” all the sensuous elements of Braque's previous years were banished. Color has been reduced to a severe combination of browns, dull greens and grays. The curving rhythms have given way to a system of vertical and horizontal, broken only by the forty-five degree diagonals of roof-tops and trees. All details have been eliminated and the foliage of the trees reduced to a minimum to reveal the geometric severity of the houses. These are continued upwards almost to the top of the canvas so that the eye is allowed no escape beyond them. The picture plane is further emphasized by the complete lack of aerial perspective (the far houses are, if anything, darker and stronger in value than the foreground house), and by the fact that occasionally contours are broken and forms opened up into each other. There is no central vanishing point; indeed in many of the houses all the canons of traditional perspective are completely broken. (Flam 145)
Although Braque was the first to create a cubist work, it is well known that cubism was a combined team effort that was created through the genius partnership of both Braque and Picasso. It is impossible to say which of the two was the principal stylistic inventor of the revolutionary new style, for at the height of their collaboration they exchanged ideas almost daily and produced pictures so alike as to be practically indistinguishable. Examples of these similarities are the various nude pictures of women that both Picasso and Braque created during the first years of analytic cubism. If we compare George Braque’s “Large Nude”, to Picasso’s Three women; it is easy to see that they must have collaborated many ideas and exchanged critical analysis of each others work constantly. The images in these two paintings look like they were created in almost exactly the same format by the same person. It can be stated that George Braque and Pablo Picasso were basically the same person for those first years of analytic cubism. (Arnason, 189)
By 1912 Braque, with the assistance and inspirations of Picasso, created a definitive definition of analytic cubism. This newly created definition was created through months of trial and error and monumental discussions with Picasso.
This Cubist style emphasized the flat, two-dimensional surface of the picture plane, rejecting the traditional techniques of perspective, foreshortening, modeling, and chiaroscuro and refuting time-honored theories of art as the imitation of nature. Cubist painters were not bound to copying form, texture, color, and space; instead, they presented a new reality in paintings that depicted radically fragmented objects, whose several sides were seen simultaneously.
If there is one aspect of Braque’s life that is confusing, it is why he has not received the recognition for his works the way that Picasso has. Braque was just as much, if not more, the creator of analytic cubism. He worked alongside Picasso in developing all aspects of cubism from day one until the beginning of World War One. The only reason why Braque’s name is not remembered as well as Picasso’s is because of his enlistment to fight in World War One. This event was the turning point of his career. The
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