the portuguese braque form
To understand Cubism it helps to go back to Cézanne’s still life paintings or even further, to the Renaissance. Let me use an example that worked nicely in the classroom. I was lecturing, trying to untangle Cubism while drinking incresingly cold coffee from a paper cup. I set the cup on the desk in the front of the room and said, “If I were a Renaissance artist in mid-15th century Italy painting that cup on that table, I would position myself at particular point in space and construct the surrounding objects and space frozen in that spot and from that single perspective. On the other hand, if this was the late 19th century and I was Cézanne, I might allow myself to open this view up quite a bit. Perhaps I would focus on, and record, the perceptual changes of shape and line that result when I shift my weight from one leg to the other or when I lean in toward the cup to get a closer look. I might even allow myself to render slightly around the far side of the paper cup since, as Cézanne, I am interested in vision and memory working together. Finally, if I were Braque or Picasso in the early 20th century, I would want to express even more on the canvas. I would not be satisfied with the limiting conventions of Renaissance perspective nor even with the initial explorations of the master Cézanne.
As a Cubist, I want to express my total visual understanding of the paper coffee cup. I want more than the Renaissance painter or even Cézanne, I want to express the entire cup simultaneously on the static surface of the canvas since I can hold all that visual information in my memory. I want to render the cup’s front, its sides, its back, and its inner walls, its bottom from both inside and out, and I want to do this on a flat canvas. How can this be done? The answer is provided by The Portuguese. In this canvas, everything was fractured. The guitar player and the dock was just so many pieces of broken form, almost broken glass. By breaking these objects into smaller elements, Braque and Picasso are able to overcome the unified singularity of an object and instead transform it into an object of vision. At this point the class began to look a little confused, so I turned back to the paper cup and began to tear it into pieces (I had finished the coffee). If I want to be able to show you both the back and front and inside and outside simultaneously, I can fragment the object. Basically, this is the strategy of the Cubists. – from smarthistory
Georges Braque is one of the most renowned artists of the 20 th Century. He is credited with the creation of the visual arts style of Cubism, alongside Pablo Picasso, between 1907 and 1914. The French painter was born seven months after Picasso in a small town near Paris in the 1870s (Braque). His family, mainly his father and grandfather, were also painters. Braque was taught to be in tune with sports and music. At the young age of fifteen, he attended the Le Havre Academy and at 17 he pursued an apprenticeship in Paris. While an apprentice, Braque was educated in artistic techniques such as the imitation of wood grain that would later play a major part in his works (Braque). Braque’s paintings consist basically of still life.
Georges Braque – A Focus on Cubism by Pamela L. Tucker
Golding, “Cubism, A History and an Analysis, 1907-1914”:
“[I]n the spring of 1911 Braque introduced a new element into one of his paintings which was of vital significance. Across a painting entitled ‘Le Portugais’ Braque stencilled the letters BAL, and under them numerals. Braque had first introduced letters into a still life, probably of early 1910, but they are blended into the composition and have no function other than that of identifying as a newpaper the object over which they are painted.
While working on this painting, Georges Braque combined the two techniques to come up with the Portuguese. The stencilled numbers and letters in the art are the assertions of realistic intentions of the Cubism technique. In the painting, the stencilled or written letters across the surface represent the most conclusive ways of emphasizing the picture’s two-dimensional character and they also help stress the quality of the artwork. The Portuguese painting marks an interesting stage and point in the development of Georges’ arts. At the top right-hand corner of the painting, there are D BAL letters and numerals under them. Although Georges had included various numbers as well as letters into the painting, they were the representational elements of the art.
The painting is one of the earliest cubist paintings. While it is frequently mentioned in monographs, textbooks and articles on the artist as well as Cubism, this painting has never been a source of serious controversy. Most of his paintings consist of still lives which are remarkable for their low-key colour harmonies, robust construction, and serene, meditative quality. Cubism is the technique that was used in the creation of the Portuguese painting. Georges Braque introduced this technique of painting in 1911. The painting features stencilled letters BAL and numerals under them. The painter first introduced the still life technique in 1910 before introducing the Cubism style.
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