The Frenchman Georges Braque (1882-1963) and the Spaniard Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) are considered the most influential artists of the twentieth century and the artistic geniuses who created and developed the cubist movement, undoubtedly the most revolutionary one in Western art. During a certain period of time, both artists worked together in the same studio breaking down subjects they painted into several facets and presenting their different aspects at the same time, experimenting with geometrical forms, and exploring unconventional techniques in painting all of which either shocked or impressed and interested the audience.
Although Braque and Picasso’s partnership did not last for long and their artistic careers later went their own ways, the cubist movement they created and developed while working side by side in their Paris studio has influenced the whole generations of artists around the world (Mataev). Georges Braque Born in 1882 in Argenteuil-sur-Seine, France, Georges Braque attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Le Havre during 1897-1899 and then moved to Paris where he received his craftsman certificate.
During 1902-1904, the young artist studied painting and worked at the Academie Humbert. Impressed by Matisse and Derain’s fauvist ideas, he produced and then presented his first fauve paintings in Paris’ Salon des Independants in 1907. By 1908, however, Braque lost interest in fauvism and adopted the artistic style that would be later called cubism (Georges Braque). In 1909, Braque started to work with Pablo Picasso and their fruitful partnership resulted in the development of the revolutionary cubist movement in painting.
The styles that both of them adopted were quite similar for about two years during which they introduced collage elements into their works and experimented a lot with the pasted paper technique. In “Page # 2” his paintings, Braque explored the effects of light and perspective and challenged traditional artistic conventions of that time. His works of this period were characterized by neutral color and sophisticated patterns of form as it can be seen, for example, in his “Violin and Pitcher” (Georges Braque).
The fertile partnership with Picasso ended in 1914 when Braque enrolled in the French army and went off to war. In 1915, he got severely wounded in one of the battles and after recovering in 1917 Braque resumed painting and began an artistic collaboration with Juan Gris (Georges Braque). After World War I, Braque’s style was characterized by more freedom, a richer color range, and the presence of human figures. He produced a considerable number of still lifes and rose to prominence particularly in 1922 after showing his paintings in the Salon d’Automne in Paris.
By 1930, Braque interpreted nature more realistically although some aspects of the cubist style were still present in his paintings. After that, the artist produced many works including sculptures and graphics that became particularly somber during World War II (Georges Braque). During the 1950s, Braque depicted various themes including seascapes, landscapes, birds, and also made lithographs and designed jewelry. The great French artist died in August, 1963, in Paris after several years of suffering from health deterioration.
Braque’s most known paintings include “Violin and Palette”, “Piano and Guitar”, “Guitar and Clarinet”, “The Table”, “The Round Table”, “The Day”, the “Studio” series, and many other works (Russell, 1982). Pablo Picasso Pablo Picasso was born in 1881 in Malaga, Spain, where he lived until the age of ten. In 1892, Picasso began to attend the School of Fine Arts in La Coruna and then in 1895 he “Page # 3” entered the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona where he showed his first academic work “The First Communion” at a local exhibition.
Picasso pursued his studies at the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, dropped out after only a couple of months, and began to visit the Prado where he copied the works of the old artists trying to imitate their styles. In 1900, Picasso opened a studio in Paris and the first painting he produced there was “Le Moulin de la Galette” (Mataev). Suicide committed by his friend and poet Casagemas in 1901 came as a great shock to Picasso influencing him to paint first the “Death of Casagemas” in color and then the “Death of Casagemas” in blue, and also “Evocation – the Burial of Casagemas”.
At that period, the artist used predominantly green and blue and depicted despair, poverty, and unhappiness showing his restlessness and loneliness. The paintings that Picasso produced during 1901-1904 are known as the Blue Period works. The Rose Period, which was the next stage in his artistic career, started around 1905 when Picasso’s palette became lighter, and pink, rose, yellow, and beige were pervasive in his paintings in which he mostly portrayed graceful acrobats, circus performers, and harlequins. (Mataev; Pablo Picasso)
Impressed with African ethnic art, Picasso began to combine its angular structures and his modern ideas about geometrical forms which, in 1907, resulted in the creation of “Les demoiselles d’Avignon”, his first cubist painting. Picasso and his new friend Braque explored the possibilities of the new artistic style and in the beginning their paintings could not be easily distinguished. 1909 saw the beginning of the painter’s analytical cubism whose main characteristics, faceted stereo-metric shapes, can be seen in his “Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table” or “Woman with Pears”.
After the exhaustion of analytical cubism, Picasso experimented with collages which lead to the arrival of synthetic cubism: works with large, schematic patterns as it can be seen in “The Guitar” (Mataev; Hughes, 1998). “Page # 4” After the cubist period in Picasso’ artistic career came the Classicist period with rather traditional patterns such as in “The Lovers”. But during this period he occasionally returned to cubism and in 1921 produced “Three Musicians”, one of his most important masterpieces.
Picasso’s classicist paintings also include “The Pipes of Pan”, “Women Running on the Beach”, and “The Seated Harlequin”. After that, Picasso was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement and produced “His Woman with Flower” and several other interesting paintings. In 1937, he expressed his personal view of the tragic events in the Basque province that was bombed by Germans in his huge mural work “Guernica” and in “Weeping Woman”. While living in his villa near Cannes, in 1956 Picasso painted his “Studio “La Californie” at Cannes” and “Jackeline in the Studio”.
Then he moved to the Chateau Vauvenargues where he lived and painted until his death in 1973 (Mataev). “Still Life with a Guitar” and “Mandolin, Fruit Bowl, Bottle, and Cake” Both Pablo Picasso’s painting “Mandolin, Fruit Bowl, Bottle, and Cake” and Georges Braque’s painting “Still Life with a Guitar” were produced in 1924 in France and are now located in the European Modern Paintings section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Both works are still lifes with the presence of cubist elements, are painted in oils on canvas, and each of them represents a certain stage in Picasso and Braque’s artistic careers. If during 1909-1914 both artists worked side by side to create cubism and their styles and paintings were mostly indistinguishable, in 1924, however, when the above mentioned works were produced, the divergence in Picasso and Braque’s cubist ideas could be easily seen in their paintings (Mataev).
While Picasso’s still life “Mandolin, Fruit Bowl, Bottle, and Cake” is composed of only man-made objects (a cake, a fruit bowl, a bottle, and a mandolin), Braque’s painting “Still Life with a Guitar” depicts both man-made (a pipe, a jug, sheet music, a cup, a fruit bowl, and a guitar) and natural (pears placed next to sheet music and in the fruit bowl) “Page # 5” objects. The presence of musical instruments and fruit bowls in both paintings invokes some common themes or at least it makes the viewers think of them when they look at them for the first time.
The main objects in both paintings are placed on tablecloths spread in a different manner on what appears to be tables. The objects in Braque’s picture are much smaller than those in Picasso’s work in which the size of some of them is somewhat disproportionate when compared to other objects. Braque and Picasso use space in their paintings in an entirely different way. There is quite a bit of space between the objects located in the foreground of Picasso’s still life and the viewer can easily see their whole forms.
By contrast, in Braque’s paintings the objects in the foreground seem to be concentrated closely to each other in one place and parts of some of them are hidden by other objects. The use of space by Picasso gives the audience the impression of more freedom and ease while Braque seems to impose certain limits in movement and space. In Picasso’s painting, the viewer’s attention is first attracted by the main four objects in the foreground, and then by the objects and forms located in the background, particularly by what appears to be a wall and part of a window.
By contrast, it seems that Braque’s intention is to concentrate the viewer’s attention only on the objects that can be seen in the foreground. He does not provide any detail as to what is in the background as though he does not want to divert the audience’s attention from the center of interest of the painting. Another important difference between the paintings as far as the objects and their forms are concerned is that Braque’s work is much more realistic than Picasso’s.
Except for the window in the background, Picasso seems to depict in his picture not the objects such as the cake or fruit bowl but rather the shapes that invoke those objects. What attracts the “Page # 6” viewer’s attention in particular is the flatness of the forms of Picasso’s objects that are defined by lines. Although some parts and forms of his objects are disproportionate, Braque’s objects, however, are unambiguous and closer to reality. The use of color is another important characteristic that distinguishes Picasso’s painting from Braque’s work.
In Picasso’s “Mandolin, Fruit Bowl, Bottle, and Cake” bright and vivid colors are predominant and much brighter and richer than those in Braque’s “Still Life with a Guitar” conveying to the viewer a light and pleasant mood. By contrast, the somber aspect of Braque’s painting whose color range varies from dark brown to dark beige makes the viewer impressed with its gloom and sadness. In Picasso’s picture, the general color range of objects in the foreground is slightly more somber compared to the color range in the background.
By contrast, in Braque’s work, the relatively somber objects in the foreground are placed against an even darker background. The only bright-colored objects in this picture seem to be sheet music and a pipe appearing incongruous to a certain extent against the backdrop of its general color range. Another distinctive characteristic is the color of the objects themselves. Except for the window in the background, the color of most objects in Picasso’s painting is plain, for example, a plain dark red bottle, a plain bright yellow fruit bowl, and so on.
Braque, by contrast, adds to the color of every object thick brush-strokes of black as if to emphasize the somber mood of the painting. There is also some difference in how the artists paint the objects in the pictures with their brushes. In Picasso’s “Mandolin, Fruit Bowl, Bottle, and Cake” the paint is applied thinly in most areas, although in some places it is quite thick. In “Still Life with a Guitar” Braque’s bold brushwork is pervasive.
REFERENCES: 1. Georges Braque. Retrieved May 10, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www. mcs. csuhayward. edu/~malek/Braque. html 2. Hughes, R. (1998, June 8). Pablo Picasso. Time magazine.
Retrieved May 10, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www. time. com/time/time100/artists/profile/picasso. html 3. Mataev, Y. Pablo Picasso. Retrieved May 10, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www. abcgallery. com/P/picasso/picassobio. html#Between 4. Pablo Picasso. Retrieved May 10, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www. artchive. com/artchive/P/picasso. html 5. Russell, J. (1982, January 17). Rediscovering Georges Braque in his Centenary Year. New York Times on the Web. Retrieved May 10, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://query. nytimes. com/gst/fullpage. html? res=990DE5DB1138F934A25752C0A964948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all
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