Painted in 1935, Compotier, fruits et couteau is an exceptional example of the still-life genre of which Georges Braque was such an unparalleled master. Braque regarded himself as the heir of Jean-Baptiste Chardin and Paul Cézanne, ennobling the most mundane of objects through a clear and implacably strict inner logic, the underpinnings of which were based on pictorial solutions he and Picasso had proposed during their cubist experiments. Disregarding the prevailing artistic tendencies toward surrealism, expressionism, and the return to realism, he instead set about exclusively applying the constructs of cubism, which was for him a limitless language, the fundamental rhetoric of which could never be exhausted.
'Still-life has always been the speciality of Braque's genius. Seldom has painting been used to confer so much enchantment on such oridinary things: loaves of bread, knives, packets of cigarettes, fruit, flowers, and innumerable domestic accessories... Like Chardin before him, Braque takes us into the salon, the kitchen, the bedroom, the dining-room, even into his own studio in pursuit of reality: nothing is too humble to find a place in one of his pictures... So, from the lowliest objects Braque extracts a new poetry as he paints, and our experience of the world becomes fuller and more exciting. If we will look, Braque will teach us to see, and this, after all, is the highest function of the true artist' (D. Cooper, 'Georges Braque: The Evolution of a Vision', in exh. cat., G. Braque, Tate Gallery, London, 1956, pp. 14-15).