georges braque violin and pitcher
While he used muted even muddy colours this canvas demonstrates, through his use of discernible brush strokes and fragmented forms, an intellectual dynamism that leads into a mysterious zone from which perhaps all form emanates.
Braque’s subjects at this time were ordinary everyday objects, which he rendered in an increasingly fragmented way using monochromatic colour.
Violin and Palette marked another era in Georges Braque’s journey through painting. Paul Cezanne had begun works with geometrized compositions that fascinated Brague and started him working on simplified forms and flattened spatial planes. Fueled by his meeting with Picasso in 1907, during which they discovered a common interest in Cubist techniques, Braque abandoned a bright Fauve palette for muted colors.
Stare at the various shades of color and we will find fragments of the violin at the bottom left side of the painting against the backdrop of what appears to be music scores, all aligned vertically along the length of the painting. Stare hard at the violin and we will see the fragmented strings and the carved S and inverted S shapes that are typical of violins. Stare harder and the pieces seem to float before our eyes.
This explanation was frequently advanced by contemporaneous critics, and it does explain many of the Salon Cubists’ paintings. It fails, however, to account for all of the distortions in Braque’s Violin and Palette, such as the way parts of the violin are abstracted into geometric forms, and the elimination of entire parts of the instrument.
Candlestick and Playing Cards on a Table is even more difficult to decipher. The title tells us what to look for, and hints of the objects’ forms emerge from the shifting grid of rectangles presented in an oval format. In the center of the composition we can find the circular base of a candlestick. It is placed above the corner of a table, which juts out towards the viewer. The most legible objects are the two playing cards on the right. Below them Braque painted a schematic open drawer, another reference to traditional trompe l’oeil painting effects like the curtain and nail in Violin and Palette.
Here, still-life props (some recognizable and some impossible to identify) are clustered toward the center of a gridlike armature. Braque united the objects and the background by opening up and covering over the boundaries of the black-outlined objects, and by using the same earth-toned colors for the entire painting. He transformed volumes in the still life to accommodate their multiple surfaces on a flat plane, thereby allowing the viewer to see more of the form than would be possible from a single vantage point.
Georges Braque, French (Argenteuil, France, 1882 – 1963, Paris, France)