Composed of harmonious planes of seamlessly interlocking colours, patterns and lines, Verre, pipe, citrons et poire coupée exemplifies Georges Braque’s great mastery of the still-life, a genre which he spent his life exploring. Painted in 1930, the present work dates from what John Richardson has described as a period of ‘frenzied experimentation’ (J. Richardson, Georges Braque, London, 1959, p. 20). The three lemons radiate from the centre-right of the composition, echoed by the cut pear to the lower right; each fruit at once weighty and opaque, and at the same time feather-light as they float above the platter and tabletop upon which they lie and which can be seen through them. Colour comes to the fore in this painting, arranged throughout the composition with an effortless ease. The same cubist fragmentation of perspective and shape is in evidence, yet, in contrast to the near-monochrome paintings that Braque and his cubist comrade Pablo Picasso painted during this earlier crucial phase of experimentation, in the present work, the composition is flooded with rich blocks and facets of colour.
The combination of varying planes in the present lot is reminiscent of Braque’s Synthetic Cubist style. Moving away from the rigorous and somewhat austere form of early Cubism – known as Analytic Cubism – around 1912, Braque began introducing textures 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 Gris, to play with reality and mimesis. Braque experimented further throughout the 1920s and began to move away from the restrained palette and angular forms of his earlier cubist experimentations, introducing organic forms in bold planes of bright blocks of colour, adding more gesture to the surfaces. While the glass, dish, fruit, pot and pipe are all realistic, readable objects, within the composition, they lose their everyday identity and serve also as abstract shapes. Braque had a unique ability to transform the everyday ephemera of life into paintings that are at once monumental and intimate, capturing the way in which objects interact and coexist within space. The artist 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 [..] Once involved in this universality, they all draw closer together, because we have human eyes, and then they refer uniquely to ourselves’ (Braque quoted in D. Cooper, Braque: The Great Years, Chicago, 1972, p. 111).