GEORGES BRAQUE (1882-1963)
GEORGES BRAQUE (1882-1963)
GEORGES BRAQUE (1882-1963)
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GEORGES BRAQUE (1882-1963)


GEORGES BRAQUE (1882-1963)
charcoal and paper collage on paper
18 ¾ x 12 ¼ in. (47.5 x 31 cm.)
Executed in 1912-1913
Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 7 May 1923, lot 45.
Raoul La Roche, Paris & Basel, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Private collection, Paris & Zurich, a gift from the above in 1956, and thence by descent to the present owners.
S. Fumet, 'Georges Braque, Papiers collés 1912-1914', in Derrière le miroir, Paris, 1963, no. 15 (illustrated).
N.W. de Romilly & J. Laude, Braque, Le cubisme fin 1907-1914, Paris, 1982, no 168, p. 280 (illustrated p. 188).
Exh. cat., Georges Braque, Les papiers collés, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1982, no. 14, p. 92 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Georges Braque, Papier collé, 1912-1914, May 1963, no. 15 (illustrated).
Oslo, Kunstnernes Hus, Georges Braque, November 1964 - January 1965; this exhibition later travelled to Bergen Kunstforening, January - February 1965.
Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Il cubismo, Rivoluzione e tradizione, October 2004 - January 2005, no. 45, p. 198 (illustrated p. 199; dimensions inverted and illustrated incorrectly).
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Violon was executed in 1912, at the height of Braque's friendship with Picasso and at the climax of an intense debate and rivalry concerned with painting and the ideas of Cubism. It was in Sorgues in September 1912 that Braque, working alongside Picasso, had made the discovery of the papier-collé technique, where materials from everyday life, such as newspaper, wallpaper and oilcloth were placed on the paper and canvas surfaces. As Golding has observed, 'after their positions had been carefully noted the ... elements would be removed and the actual painting begun ... Most of the objects in Braque's pre-war synthetic Cubism continue to be easily recognisable, but occasionally pictures contain iconographic elements which it is impossible to identify with certainty. At times objects seem to be themselves and yet simultaneously not themselves. In these respects certain canvases of the time look forward to the profoundly philosophical works of Braque's later years' (Exh. cat., Braque Still-Life and Interiors, London, 1990, p. 12).

The use of the papier-collé technique composing Braque's canvases was also explored in seminal works on paper such as Violon where the artist employs minimal means to maximum effect. The present composition relates closely to Hommage J.S. Bach (Romilly, 122), completed earlier that same year, now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In the latter picture, Braque depicts a violin using the language of high analytic cubism, tightly compressed and delineated, broken into intersecting planes, producing a three-dimensional image on a two-dimensional surface. In the present work, the same composition of the violin is rediscovered and powerfully simplified, reflecting an exciting new development with the artist's return to the subject. Where previously the flat surface was painted with muted colour, the introduction of a rectangle of applied faux wood veneer, introduces and element from the external world, imposing upon the representational plane a figment of the actual. Despite the fact that this remains the slice of a painted representation — a technique of woodgraining from a repertoire of surface treatments that Braque had learned as a craftsman-decorator — its physical imposition with the collage technique evokes another immediate visual reality. This development allowed Picasso and Braque to actively construct rather than deconstruct their subjects, treating the image in the more coherent, legible, language of synthetic cubism. This revolutionary new style which would bridge the realms of sculpture with painting was given form through the lessons learned in papiers-collés such as Violon which enabled Braque to experiment with layering of materials, lending tension and depth to his compositions.

The created effect emphasised flat areas, planes of colour or substance distinct from the drawn or painted elements. Larger compositions were developed in drawings, collages and small paper sculptures, and provided a dramatic and revolutionary way of making a painting without referring to the formulae of conventional subjects, be it still life or portrait. It released both the spatial quality of Picasso's architecture and the sensual beauty of Braque's surfaces. Braque drew the content of the image on and between the layers defined by the cut papers. As Douglas Cooper described the revolutionary effect of the papiers-collés, 'it reinforced the idea of the tableau-objet. It also transformed the ideas of Braque and Picasso as to the relationship between colour and form. More importantly, it led them to the conclusion that they could create their own pictorial reality by building up towards it through a syntheses of different elements. Thus in the winter of 1912-13 a fundamental change came about in the pictorial methods of the true Cubists. Whereas previously Braque and Picasso had analysed and dissected the appearance of objects to discover a set of forms which would add up to their totality and provide the formal elements of a composition, now they found that they could begin by composing with purely pictorial elements (shaped forms, planes of colour) and gradually endow them with an objective significance' (D. Cooper, The Cubist Epoch, London, 1971, p. 188).

Wilhelm Uhde insisted that 'Cubism owes much to Braque ... Hand in hand [Picasso and Braque] left behind the world of simple appearances and laid siege to another which had been glimpsed earlier by Cezanne ... the two friends worked toward the solution of the same problems, now one, now the other finding the means to achieve seemingly identical goals' (W. Uhde, Picasso et la tradition française: Notes sur la peinture actuelle, Paris, 1928). Uhde compared Picasso's love of spatial architecture with Braque's emphasis of the picture surface, which he tries to make 'tangible'. He said that Braque 'has a particular musicality in his blood' whose 'accents were known earlier to Chardin and Corot' (quoted in W. Rubin, exh. cat., Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism, New York, 1989, p. 46). Guillaume Apollinaire wrote 'He is a serious craftsman, expressing a beauty full of tenderness, and the pearly lustre of his pictures pleases our senses like a rainbow' (ibid., p. 42). The subtle tonality and delicate handling of the restricted palette and form of Violon illustrates Apollinaire's observation.

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