Georges Braque was a major 20th-century French painter and sculptor who, along with Pablo Picasso, developed the art style known as Cubism. He was born on 13 May 1882, in Argenteuil, Val-d'Oise and grew up in Le Havre and trained to be a house painter and decorator like his father and grandfather. However, he also studied artistic painting during evenings at the École des Beaux-Arts, in Le Havre, from about 1897 to 1899. In Paris, he apprenticed with a decorator and was awarded his certificate in 1902. The next year, he attended the Académie Humbert, also in Paris, and painted there until 1904. It was here that he met Marie Laurencin and Francis Picabia.
His earliest works were impressionistic, but after seeing the work exhibited by the artistic group known as the "Fauves" (Beasts) in 1905, Braque adopted a Fauvist style. The Fauves, a group that included Henri Matisse and André Derain among others, used brilliant colors to represent emotional response. Braque worked most closely with the artists Raoul Dufy and Othon Friesz, who shared Braque's hometown of Le Havre, to develop a somewhat more
In May 1907, he successfully exhibited works of the Fauve style in the Salon des Indépendants. The same year, Braque's style began a slow evolution as he became influenced by Paul Cézanne, who had died in 1906, and whose works were exhibited in Paris for the first time in a large-scale, museum-like retrospective in September 1907. The 1907 Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d'Automne greatly affected the avant-garde artists of Paris, resulting in the advent of Cubism.
Braque's paintings of 1908–1913 reflected his new interest in geometry and simultaneous perspective. He conducted an intense study of the effects of light and perspective and the technical means that painters use to represent these effects, seeming to question the most standard of artistic conventions. In his village scenes, for example, Braque frequently reduced an architectural structure to a geometric form approximating a cube, yet rendered its shading so that it looked both flat and three-dimensional by fragmenting the image. He showed this in the painting Houses at l'Estaque. Beginning in 1909, Braque began to work closely with Pablo Picasso, who had been developing a similar style of painting. At the time, Pablo Picasso was influenced by Gauguin, Cézanne, African masks and Iberian sculpture, while Braque was interested mainly in developing Cézanne's ideas of multiple perspectives. Braque’s essential subject is the ordinary objects he has known practically forever. Picasso celebrates animation, while Braque celebrates contemplation. Thus, the invention of Cubism was a joint effort between Picasso and Braque, then residents of Montmartre, Paris. These artists were the style's main innovators. After meeting in October or November 1907, Braque and Picasso, in particular, began working on the development of Cubism in 1908. Both artists produced paintings of monochromatic color and complex patterns of faceted form, now termed Analytic Cubism.
A decisive time of its development occurred during the summer of 1911, when Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso painted side by side in Céret in the French Pyrenees, each artist producing paintings that are difficult—sometimes virtually impossible—to distinguish from those of the other. In 1912, they began to experiment with collage and Braque invented the papier collé technique. The two artists' productive collaboration continued and they worked closely together until the beginning of World War I in 1914, when Braque enlisted with the French Army. In May 1915, Braque received a severe head injury in battle at Carency and suffered temporary blindness. He was trepanned, and required a long period of recuperation.
Braque resumed painting in late 1916. Working alone, he began to moderate the harsh abstraction of cubism. He developed a more personal style characterized by brilliant color, textured surfaces, and—after his relocation to the Normandy seacoast—the reappearance of the human figure. He painted many still life subjects during this time, maintaining his emphasis on structure. One example of this is his 1943 work Blue Guitar, which hangs in the Allen Memorial Art Museum. During his recovery he became a close friend of the cubist artist Juan Gris. He continued to work during the remainder of his life, producing a considerable number of paintings, graphics, and sculptures. Braque, along with Matisse, is credited for introducing Pablo Picasso to Fernand Mourlot, and most of the lithographs and book illustrations he himself created during the 1940s and '50s were produced at the Mourlot Studios. In 1962, Braque worked with master printmaker Aldo Crommelynck to create his series of etchings and aquatints titled “L’Ordre des Oiseaux” (“The Order of Birds”) which was accompanied by the poet Saint-John Perse's text.
Braque died on 31 August 1963, in Paris. He is buried in the cemetery of the Church of St. Valery in Varengeville-sur-Mer, Normandy, whose windows he designed. Braque's work is in most major museums throughout the world.
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