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L'Écho
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L'Écho
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L'Écho

US
NY, US
US

About the item

Georges Braque, L'Écho\nSigned G. Braque (lower left)\nOil on canvas\n51 1/4 by 63 3/4 in.\n130 by 162 cm\nPainted between 1953 and 1956.
US
NY, US
US

notes

L'Écho is associated with Braque's celebrated Studio series, a group of eight views of his atelier painted from 1949-1956 in Varengeville on the Normandy coast.  Braque worked on several canvases at once, reworking and making major changes as he went along. Although, not a part of this series specifically, L'Écho was begun at least by 1953 while he was already painting and repainting some of the Studio pictures.  He finished and signed the work in 1956, the same year it was exhibited as Le Tapis Rouge at the Galerie Maeght.  The composition is divided into two parts: a white pitcher with yellow highlights at the left is balanced on the right by a richly painted, beige and taupe bird with spread wings.  A piece of white newspaper bearing the title L'Écho unites these two major elements both visually and spatially.  All of these forms are set on a red cloth that outlines the elliptical dimensions of the table.  In the upper third of the composition, Braque has painted what has been described as a "white bar with a branch of mushrooms" or a "coat rack."  This motif is repeated in negative in the lower third of the painting -- a somber echo of the forms above.  The use of the title of the newspaper L'Écho de Paris dates back to the artist's monumental papier collé of 1913, Verre, clarinette et journal, L'Écho, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The artist has retained the newspaper title with its typographical arrangement to play a precise role in the composition.

Once finished, L'Écho remained a source of inspiration to Braque.  He kept the work in his studio and it inspired subsequent compositions (see figs. 1 and 2).  "Above all the studio was dominated by Braque's paintings, on easels, leaning against the walls and propped up on the floor with the iron stands he made himself. He kept this work in progress constantly in his view, working on a number of canvases at once. This way of working encouraged interrelationships between works to multiply. Braque would rearrange the paintings in the studio frequently. Finished works which he wanted around for him for reference would also be on view. (...) 'I take years to finish them', Braque told Dora Vallier, 'but I look at them every day. Arranged as they are, one next to the other, I have them constantly in front of me, I confront them'" (John Golding, Sophie Bowness, Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, Braque: The Late Works (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1997, p. 73).

Braque also painted a smaller version of L'Écho, Nature morte rouge  in 1955.  The two versions are almost identical, except in place of the bird, Braque has included a still-life of lemons, grapes, and cherries on a flattened curvilinear plate.  That Nature morte rouge was an interim solution to the problem of the composition of L'Écho can be seen in a photograph of the studio taken by Robert Doisneau. There on the easel is L'Écho, but the bird is not yet on the table; there is only an indication of the mass that will eventually take on its form.  The white area does not yet bear the name of the newspaper.  Having completed the smaller version with the still life, the artist would then return to the symbolic image of the bird for the present work.  As Danchev describes in his biography of the artist, "Braque was less concerned with birds, as such, than with the miracle of winged flight; that is, with movement in space, progress through a resistant medium. 'The bird is a summing up of all my art', Braque told Alexander Liberman as they contemplated The Bird and Its Nest. 'It is more than painting.' 'It has a hypnotic power,' said Liberman. 'That's it,' Braque responded immediately. 'It's as if one heard the fluttering of wings'" (Alex Danchev, Georges Braque, A Life, New York, 2005, p. 249)

Fig. 1, Georges Braque working on L'Écho in his studio at Varengeville, Photograph by Alexander Liberman

Fig. 2, Braque's studio with L'Écho. Photograph by Gene Fenn

Fig. 3, Georges Braque, Studio VIII, oil on canvas, 1954-55, Private Collection

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Georges Braque

exhibited

Paris, Galerie Maeght, Georges Braque, 1956, no. 12 (as Le Tapis rouge)

dimensions

51 1/4 by 63 3/4 in. 130 by 162 cm

literature

Connaissance des Arts, Paris, December 1956, illustrated

René de Solier, "L'Oiseau de Braque," Cahiers d'Art, no. 31-32,  Paris, 1956-57, illustrated p. 241

John Richardson, "Braque," Réalités (American edition), 1958

Emile Langui, 50 Years of Modern Art, New York, 1959, illustrated p. 120

Nicole Mangin, Catalogue de l'oeuvre peint de Georges Braque, Peintures, 1948-1957, Paris, 1959, no. 103, illustrated (as dating from 1956)

Jacques Damase, Braque, Paris-London, 1963, illustrated on the cover and p. 67

Stanislas Fumet, Georges Braque, 1965, illustreated p. 181

Histoire Universelle de l'art, Paris, vol. III, 1966, illustrated p. 689

Gina Pischel, The Golden History of Art, New York, 1968, illustrated p. 665

Raymond Cogniat, Braque, Paris, 1970, illustrated p. 79

Franc Ponge, Pierre Descargues, André Malraux, Braque, New York, 1971, illustrated p. 219; photograph of unfinished work p. 259

Bernard Zurcher, Georges Braque, Life and Work, New York, 1988, photograph of unfinished work p. 292

provenance

Aimé Maeght, Paris (by 1956 and until 1959)

Galerie Beyeler, Basel (by 1968)

Private Collection (sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 11, 1993, lot 42)

Private Collection (sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 1, 1996, lot 56)

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner




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