Georges Braque (1882-1963)
Property from a Private European Collection
Georges Braque (1882-1963)

La lampe sur la table (Sous la lampe)

Georges Braque (1882-1963)
La lampe sur la table (Sous la lampe)
signed 'G Braque' (lower right); titled 'SOUS.LA.LAMPE.' (on the stretcher)
oil and sand on canvas
25 5/8 x 31 7/8 in. (65.1 x 81 cm.)
Painted in 1952
Aimé Maeght, Paris.
Adolphe A. Juviler, New York and Palm Beach (by 1959).
Saidenberg Gallery, New York.
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, 31 January 1987.
M. Gieure, G. Braque, Paris, 1956, p. 119, no. 118 (illustrated in color).
Galerie Maeght, ed., Catalogue de l'oeuvre de Georges Braque: Peintures 1948-1957, Paris, 1959, p. 44 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Maeght, G. Braque, June-July 1952, no. 27.

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

Braque painted Sous la lampe at the height of the great late flowering in his work, when, as John Richardson has stated, he was creating paintings that were "more explorative in their handling of space and more profound in their metaphysical concerns than anything else being done in Western Europe at the time" (Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters, New York, 2001, p. 237). During the first half of the 1950s, Braque was working on compositions of unsurpassed depth and complexity, which reveal a profound visual poetry, taking as their subject matter the familiar interior spaces, ordinary furnishings and mundane possessions in the artist's homes and studios in Paris and Varengeville-sur-Mer." These paintings of interiors represented a tremendous immersion in myself," he declared. "Everything became simple and full of meaning" (quoted in J. Golding, Georges Braque: The Late Works, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1997, p. 74).

The series of Le Billard pictures, which Braque painted in 1944-1952, marked the beginning of this postwar florescence in the artist's oeuvre, followed by the Terrasse group in 1949. Braque had by then already commenced the first of eight magnificent paintings in his renowned Atelier series. He completed the first six studios between 1949 and 1951, then worked for extended periods on the final two during 1952-1953 (VII, reworked as IX) and 1954-1955 (VIII; sold, Christie's, New York, 11 May 1992, lot 43). Richardson, who closely tracked the progress of the Ateliers while visiting and interviewing Braque, has written, "These studios--and in particular the culminant picture of the series, Studio VIII--may be said to crown Braque's career, for it sums up in an entirely new and personal idiom all the discoveries that he has ever made" (Georges Braque, London, 1959, p. 27).

Sous la lampe, although painted on a smaller scale than the concurrent Atelier canvases, shares many of their pictorial characteristics, such as the telescoping of space with resultant ambiguities and equivocations, and the mysterious interpenetration of diverse objects. Common to all of these compositions is a large centrally placed vase, glass, or, as seen here, a pitcher. A guitar with an oddly angled, rather than rounded, body abuts the pitcher. The lamp's descending white light bisects both objects, creating a stark contrast between the strongly lit center and the darker sides of the composition--as Shakespeare's Prospero says: "our little life is rounded with a sleep" (The Tempest, IV, i).

Elements within the communion of objects in Sous la lampe blend and shift into one another, while the space in which they exist, ostensibly flat, appears to advance or recede according to a visual logic known only to the painter himself. These aspects mingle and interact visually in the way a poet uses simile, rhyme and alliteration, as lines and shapes echo one another, all governed by a deeply intuitive pictorial imperative born of a master's long wisdom and experience. Braque continued to engage Cubism, more than four decades since he had been a founding partner, to cast a magical, transformative spell on reality. These late still-lifes carry within them 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... 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 op. cit., 1959, p. 26).

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