braque the portuguese

braque the portuguese

To understand Cubism it helps to go back to Cézanne’s still life paintings or even further, to the Renaissance. Let me use an example that worked nicely in the classroom. I was lecturing, trying to untangle Cubism while drinking incresingly cold coffee from a paper cup. I set the cup on the desk in the front of the room and said, “If I were a Renaissance artist in mid-15th century Italy painting that cup on that table, I would position myself at particular point in space and construct the surrounding objects and space frozen in that spot and from that single perspective. On the other hand, if this was the late 19th century and I was Cézanne, I might allow myself to open this view up quite a bit. Perhaps I would focus on, and record, the perceptual changes of shape and line that result when I shift my weight from one leg to the other or when I lean in toward the cup to get a closer look. I might even allow myself to render slightly around the far side of the paper cup since, as Cézanne, I am interested in vision and memory working together. Finally, if I were Braque or Picasso in the early 20th century, I would want to express even more on the canvas. I would not be satisfied with the limiting conventions of Renaissance perspective nor even with the initial explorations of the master Cézanne.
As a Cubist, I want to express my total visual understanding of the paper coffee cup. I want more than the Renaissance painter or even Cézanne, I want to express the entire cup simultaneously on the static surface of the canvas since I can hold all that visual information in my memory. I want to render the cup’s front, its sides, its back, and its inner walls, its bottom from both inside and out, and I want to do this on a flat canvas. How can this be done? The answer is provided by The Portuguese. In this canvas, everything was fractured. The guitar player and the dock was just so many pieces of broken form, almost broken glass. By breaking these objects into smaller elements, Braque and Picasso are able to overcome the unified singularity of an object and instead transform it into an object of vision. At this point the class began to look a little confused, so I turned back to the paper cup and began to tear it into pieces (I had finished the coffee). If I want to be able to show you both the back and front and inside and outside simultaneously, I can fragment the object. Basically, this is the strategy of the Cubists. – from smarthistory

While working on this painting, Georges Braque combined the two techniques to come up with the Portuguese. The stencilled numbers and letters in the art are the assertions of realistic intentions of the Cubism technique. In the painting, the stencilled or written letters across the surface represent the most conclusive ways of emphasizing the picture’s two-dimensional character and they also help stress the quality of the artwork. The Portuguese painting marks an interesting stage and point in the development of Georges’ arts. At the top right-hand corner of the painting, there are D BAL letters and numerals under them. Although Georges had included various numbers as well as letters into the painting, they were the representational elements of the art.
The painting is one of the earliest cubist paintings. While it is frequently mentioned in monographs, textbooks and articles on the artist as well as Cubism, this painting has never been a source of serious controversy. Most of his paintings consist of still lives which are remarkable for their low-key colour harmonies, robust construction, and serene, meditative quality. Cubism is the technique that was used in the creation of the Portuguese painting. Georges Braque introduced this technique of painting in 1911. The painting features stencilled letters BAL and numerals under them. The painter first introduced the still life technique in 1910 before introducing the Cubism style.

Braque the portuguese
To understand Cubism it helps to go back to Cézanne’s still life paintings or even further, to the Renaissance. Let me use an example that worked nicely in the classroom. I was lecturing, trying to untangle Cubism while drinking increasingly cold coffee from a paper cup. I set the cup on the desk in the front of the room and said, “If I were a Renaissance artist in mid-15th century Italy painting that cup on that table, I would position myself at particular point in space and construct the surrounding objects and space frozen in that spot and from that single perspective. On the other hand, if this was the late 19th century and I was Cézanne, I might allow myself to open this view up quite a bit. Perhaps I would focus on, and record, the perceptual changes of shape and line that result when I shift my weight from one leg to the other or when I lean in toward the cup to get a closer look. I might even allow myself to render slightly around the far side of the paper cup since, as Cézanne, I am interested in vision and memory working together. Finally, if I were Braque or Picasso in the early 20th century, I would want to express even more on the canvas. I would not be satisfied with the limiting conventions of Renaissance perspective nor even with the initial explorations of the master Cézanne.
Georges Braque, The Portuguese, 1911, oil on canvas, 116.8 x 81 cm (Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland)

Georges Braque is one of the most renowned artists of the 20 th Century. He is credited with the creation of the visual arts style of Cubism, alongside Pablo Picasso, between 1907 and 1914. The French painter was born seven months after Picasso in a small town near Paris in the 1870s (Braque). His family, mainly his father and grandfather, were also painters. Braque was taught to be in tune with sports and music. At the young age of fifteen, he attended the Le Havre Academy and at 17 he pursued an apprenticeship in Paris. While an apprentice, Braque was educated in artistic techniques such as the imitation of wood grain that would later play a major part in his works (Braque). Braque’s paintings consist basically of still life.
As Braque moved along in the Cubist movement, he kept an art studio in Montmartre, but he also rotated in going many other places for experience. After marrying in 1912 to Marcelle Lapre, Braque resided near Avignon (Braque). He decided to join the army as a sergeant once World War I began and was commended for his bravery. Braque suffered from a severe head injury in 1915 and spent a while in hospitals and institutions. In his stay, Braque recorded broken ideas and sayings that were ultimately collected by Braque’s friend and poet Pierre Reverdy and published as “Thoughts and Reflections on Painting.”

“[I]n the spring of 1911 Braque introduced a new element into one of his paintings which was of vital significance. Across a painting entitled ‘Le Portugais’ Braque stencilled the letters BAL, and under them numerals. Braque had first introduced letters into a still life, probably of early 1910, but they are blended into the composition and have no function other than that of identifying as a newpaper the object over which they are painted.
“The stencilled letters and numebrs are assertions of [the realistic intentions of Cubism] – ‘as part of a desire to come as close as possible to a certain kind of reality, in 1911 I introduced letters into my paintings’, Braque has said – but the implications are wider. In ‘Le Portugais’ they fulfill several obvious functions. In the first place, in a style in which one of the fundamental problems had always been the reconciliation of solid form with the picture plane, the letters written or stenciled across the surface are the most conclusive way of emphasizing its two-dimensional character; Braque has stressed this when he said of the letters: ‘they were forms which could not be distorted because, being quite flat, the letters existed outside space and their presence in the painting, by contrast, enabled one to distinguish between objects situated in space and those outside it.’ In other words, Braque is in effect saying ‘My picture is an object, a flat surface, and the spatial sensations it evokes are a painter’s space which is intended to inform and not deceive.’. Secondly, the letters in Cubist painting always have some associative value;. Here the letters D and BAL (the D must be the last letter of the word GRAND) were probably suggested by a dance hall poster hanging in a bar, and help to convey a ‘cafe’ atmosphere. Then, in the ‘Portugais’ the letters have a purely compositional value, providing a terminal note for a system of ascending horizontal elements. Fourthly, they have a certain decorative value.

Resources:

http://www.georgesbraque.net/portuguese/
http://smarthistory.org/braque-the-portuguese/
http://www.people.vcu.edu/~djbromle/modern-art/02/Georges-Braque/index.htm
http://www.artchive.com/artchive/B/braque/portgais.jpg.html
http://www.georgesbraque.org/the-portuguese.jsp