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Violon et verre (Violin and Glass)
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Georges Braque (1882-1963)\nViolon et verre (Violin and Glass)\nsigned 'G Braque' (on the reverse of the original canvas)\noil, charcoal and pencil on canvas\n32 x 21 in. (82 x 54.6 cm.)\nExecuted in Paris, spring 1913
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NY, US
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notes

Violon et verre was painted in Paris in the spring of 1913, 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 coll technique, where materials from the everyday world, such as newspaper, wallpaper and oilcloth were placed on the canvas surface. 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. (J. Golding, Braque Still-life and Interiors, 1990, p. 12)

The use of the papier coll technique is plainly evident in the present picture. Just as a year previously - in Hommage J.S. Bach (Romilly, no. 122) in which Braque had depicted a violin using the language of high analytic cubism - so in the present work he returned to the familiar motif of the violin (and glass), treating the image in the more coherent, legible language of synthetic cubism. This style was given form through the lessons learned in the papiers colls as he layered surface planes across the canvas, lending tension and depth to the composition.

The created effect emphasised flat areas, planes of color or substance distinct from the drawn or painted elements. The collages were developed in drawings 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 papier colls,

it reinforced the idea of the tableau-objet. It also transformed the ideas of Braque and Picasso as to the relationship between color 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 analyzed 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 color) and gradually endow them with an objective significance. (D. Cooper, The Cubist Epoch, London, 1971, p. 188)

Another technique Braque had discovered and developed in 1912 was the use of sand, sawdust, metal filings and other materials making, in John Richardson's words, "paint surfaces of a subtlety and originality that have yet to be surpassed" (J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, New York, 1996, vol. II (1907-17), p. 246). Then he developed, from a repertoire he had learned as a craftsman-decorator, ways of woodgraining and applying marble finishes to the surface. Together with papier coll, they constituted a new vocabulary for describing the canvas surface, and many of these lessons are employed in the present work. Braque was a slower painter than Picasso, and was more attached to working with the surface of the painting than his rival. Braque himself said that he was "unable to introduce the object until I had created the space for it" (quoted in D. Vallier, "Braque, la peinture et nous," Cahiers d'art, October, 1954, vol. 29 [no. 1], p. 16).

Wilhelm Uhde insisted that "Cubism owes much to Braque... Hand in hand [Picasso and Braque] left behind the world of simple appearances and laid seige 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 francaise: 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., op. cit., New York, 1989, p. 46). Guillaume Apollinaire wrote "He is a serious craftsman, expressing a beauty full of tenderness, and the pearly luster of his pictures pleases our senses like a rainbow" (ibid., p. 42). The subtle tonality and delicate handling of the restricted palette of Violon et verre illustrates Apollinaire's observation.

Braque worked slowly and in 1913, away from Picasso's disquieting speed, he began to apply the techniques to his paintings. Here, he makes two planes, one with woodgrain, the other with a solid underpainting and a paler brown layer that form the central components of his articulated surface. Behind them he places smaller dark areas and, interlaced between them and on them, he draws the elements of his composition, conventional subjects of the cubist still life, the violin and glass. John Golding defines the color in Braque's paintings as existing "autonomously, creating spatial relationships which are then made even more complex when the subject is superimposed." (J. Golding, op. cit., p. 121). Braque's drawing is also straightfoward and descriptive; he does not, unlike Picasso, correlate parts of objects and sexuality, choosing instead a clear description of the objects. Golding says "these were perhaps the first synthetic Cubist paintings in so far as Braque was virtually working from abstraction to representation. Cubism had always been concerned with the balance between abstraction and representation, and now both approaches could be fused in a simple painting. It is this that makes Braque's work of the period so enjoyable on so many different levels, both pictorial and intellectual: and an appreciation of these paintings provides the key to the understanding of all his subsequent work" (ibid., p. 120).

It is of great note that the first owner of Violon et verre was Arthur B. Davies, the American artist who in his role as President of The American Association of American Painters and Sculptors was responsible for the pivotal 1913 New York Armory Show.

(fig. 1) Georges Braque, Le gueridon, 1911

Muse National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

(fig. 2) Georges Braque, Nature morte avec guitare, 1912

Philadelphia Museum of Art

(Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection)

(fig. 3) Georges Braque, Violon et journal, 1912-1913

Philadelphia Museum of Art

(Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection)

title

Violon et verre (Violin and Glass)

medium

Signed 'G Braque' (on the reverse of the original canvas)

signed

Signed 'G Braque' (on the reverse of the original canvas)

creator

Georges Braque

exhibited

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Variety in Abstraction, 1945-1946, no. 2. A traveling exhibition circulating throughout the United States.

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Three Modern Styles, 1949-1952. A traveling exhibition circulating throughout the United States and Canada.

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Picasso and Braque, Pioneering Cubism, September 1989-January 1990, p. 285 (illustrated in color).

Houston, The Menil Foundation, Georges Braque: Menil/Schlumberger Family Collections, April-November 1997.

dimensions

32 x 21 in. (82 x 54.6 cm.)

literature

G. Isarlov, Georges Braque, Paris, 1932, no. 163.

D.-H. Kahnweiler, Das Kunstblatt, February 1920, p. 55 (illustrated).

C. Zervos, "Georges Braque," Cahiers d'Art, 1933, vol. 8, pp. 22-23 (illustrated).

S. Fumet, Prface Braque, Paris, 1948, p. 21 (illustrated).

"Coming Auctions," Art News, April 1960, vol. 59 (no. 2), pp. 40-41 (illustrated in color, p. 40).

J. Golding, Cubism: A History and Analysis, 1907-1914, Glasgow, 1968, p. 118 (illustrated, fig. 41b).

M. Valsecchi and M. Carr, L'opera completa di Braque dalla scomposizione cubista al recupero dell'oggetto 1908-1929, Milan, 1971, no. 99 (illustrated).

N.W. de Romilly and J. Laude, Braque: Cubism, 1907-1914, Paris, 1982, p. 280, no. 172 (illustrated, p. 176).

provenance

Arthur B. Davies, New York

Erhard Weyhe, Nova Scotia

Weyhe Gallery, New York

Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York

The Museum of Modern Art, New York (gift from the above for the benefit of the 30th Anniversary Fund); sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, 27 April 1960, lot 36

Acquired from the above sale by the family of the present owners


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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