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

Les deux as

Georges Braque (1882-1963)
Les deux as
signed and dated 'G Braque 29' (lower left)
oil on canvas
9 5/8 x 13 3/4 in. (24.3 x 35 cm.)
Painted in 1929
Paul Rosenberg, Paris & New York, by 1938.
James Pendelton, New York.
E.V. Thaw & Co., New York.
Private collection, United States, by whom acquired in 1971; sale, Christie's, New York, 2 May 2006, lot 44.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Cahiers d'Art, 1930, no. 1, p. 9 (illustrated).
'Georges Braque', in Cahiers d'Art, 1933, p. 60 (illustrated).
Maeght, ed., Catalogue de l’oeuvre de Georges Braque: Peintures 1928-1935, Paris, 1962, pl. 33 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Paul Rosenberg, 1938.
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Lot Essay

Composed of harmonious planes of seamlessly interlocking colour, pattern, line and form, Les deux as (The Two Aces) exemplifies Georges Braque’s great mastery of the still-life, a genre which he spent his life exploring. Painted in 1929, Les deux as dates from what John Richardson has described as a period of ‘frenzied experimentation’ (J. Richardson, Georges Braque, London, 1959, p. 20) for Braque, a time when the artist, reaching maturity, began to explore a range of possibilities that the still-life provided. The two aces of the title radiate from the composition; at once weighty and opaque, and at the same time feather-light as they seemingly float above the faceted tabletop on which they lie. It is colour, however, that comes to the fore in this painting, arranged throughout the composition with an effortless ease. The same cubist fragmentation of perspective and form is in evidence, yet, in contrast to the near-monochrome paintings that Braque and his cubist comrade Pablo Picasso painted during this earlier stage, in the present work, the composition is flooded with rich, jewel-like facets of colour. Against the soft blue dish, the yellow and orange peach in the centre of the painting glows like a golden orb, around which an array of green tones is placed in perfect accord.

The combination of varying planes of fattened patterning in Les deux as is reminiscent of Braque’s synthetic cubist style. Moving away from the rigorous and somewhat austere form of early Cubism – now known as Analytic Cubism – in around 1912, Braque began introducing textures, patterns and real fragments of paper into his paintings, overlaying them to build up collage-like compositions. This pioneering technique, known as papier-collé, allowed Braque, along with Picasso and Juan Gris, to play with reality and illusion, representation and mimesis. While the glass, blue dish, fruit and playing cards are all realistic, readable objects, within Braque’s composition they lose their everyday identity and serve also as abstract shapes and forms. Braque had a unique ability to transform the everyday ephemera of life into paintings that are at once monumental and intimate, majestic and subtle, capturing the way in which objects interact and coexist within space. Braque reflected that ‘Once an object has been integrated into a picture, it accepts a new destiny and at the same time becomes universal… And as they give up their habitual function, so objects acquire a human harmony. Then they become united by the relationships which spring up between them, and more important between them and the picture and ultimately myself. Once involved in this universality, they all draw closer together, because we have human eyes, and then they refer uniquely to ourselves’ (quoted in D. Cooper, exh. cat., Braque: The Great Years, Chicago, 1972, p. 111).

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