Georges Braque French, 1882-1963

Braque was born at Argenteuil, near Paris, and brought up at Le Havre, where he was apprenticed to his father's trade of house painter. He first studied at the local École des Beaux-Arts and then in 1900 he went to Paris and from 1902 to 1904 he studied at the Académie Humbert. He made friends with Othon Friesz, also from Le Havre, and in 1906 they painted together at Le Ciotat and L'Estaque. Both adopted the new Fauvist style and exhibited with other Fauvists at the Salon d'Automne and the Salon des Indépendants. Braque, however, was not by temperament in harmony with the subjective and impulsive aspects of Fauvism and after being immensely impressed by the Cézanne Memorial Exhibition at the Salon d'Automne in 1907, he began painting in a more logical manner of geometrical analysis which anticipated Analytical Cubism. In 1907 he met Picasso through the dealer Kahnweiler and working together the two artists brought into being the Cubist style. During the next few years their work was so similar that some of their pictures might equally well have been painted by either. In the autumn of 1908 Kahnweiler arranged an exhibition of Braque's pictures from the previous year, all but two of which had been rejected by the Salon d'Automne. Louis Vauxcelles (who had coined the word 'Fauves') described these pictures as being reduced to 'cubes' and wrote of Braque's pictures in the Salon d'Automne of 1909 as 'bizarries cubiques'. Thus the name 'Cubism' was born. In 1911 and 1912 Braque was painting with Picasso at Céret and Sourgues and he was the first to begin the Collages which heralded Synthetic Cubism. He also introduced real elements and commercial lettering into his pictures, combining and contrasting the real with the 'illusory' picture image. He worked hand in hand with Picasso on Synthetic Cubism until the interruption caused by the First World War.

Braque suffered a severe head wound in 1915, was discharged from the army and began painting again c. 1917. During a long convalescence he pondered the principles of his art, and his thoughts, mostly in the form of aphorisms, were published in Le Jour et le Nuit. Cahiers, 1917-1952. Unlike Picasso and Léger, Braque remained entirely uncommitted to any ideology and kept his work aloof from all human or social interests outside it. In this, although he pursued a very different path artistically, he resembled Matisse. He once declared that the fundamental principle of Cubism was 'the materialization of a new space' and that the purpose of the Cubist fragmentation of objects was to 'establish space and movement in space'. He continued to pursue this aim with single-minded consistency and complete integrity.

His graphic work was connected primarily with an interest in Greek themes which began in the 1930s and includes 16 etchings for an edition by Vollard of the Theogony of Hesiod. From 1950 to 1958 he did a series of Oiseaux in which decorative quality is combined with extreme simplification. In 1948 Braque was awarded the Grand Prix for painting at the Venice Biennale. In 1951 he was made Commandeur of the Légion d'honneur.