Georges Braque (1882-1963)
Georges Braque (1882-1963)

L'aquarium bleu

Georges Braque (1882-1963)
L'aquarium bleu
oil on board laid down on canvas
30 1/8 x 41 7/8 in. (76.5 x 106.4 cm.)
Painted in 1960-1962
Claude Laurens, Paris.
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (by 1987).
Galerie Beyeler, Basel.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, August 1988.
M. Valsecchi and M. Carrà, L'opera completa di Braque, dalla scomposizione cubista al recupero dell'oggetto, 1908-1929, Milan, 1971, p. 106, no. 479 (illustrated, p. 105; titled Acquario).
S. Fauchereau, Braque, Paris, 1987, no. 150 (illustrated in color).
B. Zurcher, Georges Braque, Life and Work, New York, 1988, p. 265, no. 215 (illustrated in color).
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, G Braque, July-September 1968, no. 63 (illustrated in color; illustrated again in the artist's studio; titled Aquarium).
Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Georges Braque, Henri Laurens, March-May 1969, p. 39, no. 253 (illustrated, p. 32).
Rome, Accademia di Francia, Villa Medici, Braque, November 1974-January 1975, no. 39 (illustrated).
Marcq-en-Boroeul, La Fondation Anne et Albert Prouvost, G. Braque, October 1978-January 1979, no. 31 (illustrated).
Saint-Paul, Fondation Maeght, Georges Braque, July-September 1980, p. 202, no. 153 (illustrated in color, p. 164).
Bordeaux, Galerie des Beaux-Arts and Strasbourg, Musée d'art moderne, Georges Braque en Europe, Centenaire de la naissance de George Braque, May-November 1982, p. 252, no. 90 (illustrated, p. 253).
Barcelona, Fundación para el Apoya de la Cultura, Georges Braque, 1986, p. 248, no. 86 (illustrated in color, p. 249; illustrated again in the artist's studio, p. 2).

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David Kleiweg de Zwaan
David Kleiweg de Zwaan

Lot Essay

Quentin Laurens, the holder of the Droit Moral, has kindly confirmed that this work is registered in his archives.

Braque wrote: "I am no longer concerned with metaphors but with metamorphoses" (quoted in J. Golding, Braque: The Late Works, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1997, p. 89). Painted between 1960 and 1962 and previously in the collection of the artist’s heir, Claude Laurens, L’aquarium bleu is extraordinarily rich in these visual metamorphoses. Compositional elements blend and shift into one another; they mingle and interact visually in the way a poet uses simile, rhyme and alliteration; lines and shapes echo one another; from objects present and mundane emerge reminiscences of works past, all governed by a deeply intuitive pictorial imperative born of a master's long experience and wisdom.
In the present ornately textured painting, bright blue fish have seemingly merged with their aquarium, their spatial context, in essence becoming the same thing. John Richardson, commenting on Braque’s late work, observes, "Objects have merged into each other and amalgamated with the spatial element to the point where they become indecipherable" (George Braque, Paris, 1962, p. 27).
More than five decades later, Cubism was still casting a motivating spell on Braque, guiding his latest research into the ways in which material objects exist in space. L’aquarium bleu, like the seminal late Atelier series, carries within it the alpha and omega of Braque's long career. The artist explained to Richardson, "No object can be tied down to any one sort of reality; a stone may be part of a wall, a piece of sculpture, a lethal weapon, a pebble on a beach, or anything else you like, just as this file in my hand can be metamorphosed into a shoe-horn or a spoon, according to the way in which I use it. The first time this phenomenon struck me was in the trenches during the First World War when my batman turned a bucket into a brazier by poking a few holes in it with his bayonet and filling it with coke. For me this commonplace incident had a poetic significance: I began to see things in a new way. Everything, I realized, is subject to metamorphosis; everything changes according to the circumstances. So when you ask me whether a particular form in one of my paintings depicts a woman's head, a fish, a vase, a bird, or all four at once, I can't give you a categorical answer, for this 'metamorphic' confusion is fundamental to what I am out to express. It's all the same to me whether a form represents a different thing to different people or many things at the same time. And then I occasionally introduce forms which have no literal meaning whatsoever, sometimes these are accidents which happen to suit my purpose, sometimes 'rhymes' which echo other forms, and sometimes rhythmical motifs which help to integrate a composition and give it movement" (quoted in J. Russell, Georges Braque, London, 1959, p. 26).
In his discussions with Braque, Richardson mentioned the possible influence of Zen Buddhism on the artist's late work. Braque answered him on this point, and also made a revealing statement about his personal philosophy at this late stage in his life and work, "Do these ideas of mine derive from Zen-Buddhism? I don't think so. True, in recent years I have read a great deal about Zen-Buddhism but this philosophy has had no influence on me...I am only interested to find how closely certain tenets of Zen-Buddhism correspond to views that I have held for a long time…You see, I have made a great discovery: I no longer believe in anything. Objects don't exist for me except in so far as a rapport exists between them or between them and myself. When one attains this harmony, one reaches a sort of intellectual non-existence, what I can only describe as a state of peace, which makes everything possible and right. Life then becomes a perpetual revelation. That is true poetry" (quoted in ibid.).

(fig. 1) The artist painting the present lot.

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