Georges Braque was born on 13 May 1882, in Argenteuil-sur-Seine, France. He grew up in Le Havre, learning to paint from his father, who ran a house-painting and decorating business that specialized in trompe l’oeil. Between 1897 and 1899, whilst in Le Havre, Braque spent evenings studying at the École municipale des Beaux-Arts. In 1900, Braque dropped out of art school to apprentice under a master decorator in Paris, though he continued to take evening classes in fine art where he would meet Henri Matisse and André Derain. From 1902 to 1904, he painted at the Académie Humbert in Paris, where he met Marie Laurencin and Francis Picabia. By 1906, Braque’s work was no longer Impressionist but Fauve in style; after spending that summer in Antwerp with Othon Friesz and the winter in L’Estaque, he showed his Fauve work the following year in the Salon des Indépendants in Paris. His first solo show was at Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s gallery in 1908. From 1909, Pablo Picasso and Braque were close; visiting each other daily, they worked together on developing Cubism. By 1911, their styles were extremely similar – Analytical Cubism. In 1912, they started to incorporate collage elements into their paintings and to experiment with the papier collé (pasted paper) technique, developing what came to be known as Synthetic Cubism. Their artistic collaboration lasted until 1914.
Braque served in the French army during World War I and was wounded; upon his recovery in 1917, he developed a freer, less schematic style characterised by brilliant colour and textured surfaces, whilst also embracing a close friendship with Juan Gris. His fame grew in 1922 as a result of an exhibition at the Salon d’Automne in Paris. In the mid-1920s, Braque designed the decor for two Sergei Diaghilev ballets. In 1929, Braque built a studio in Varengeville-sur-Mer and returned to a more realistic interpretation of nature, although certain aspects of Cubism always remained present in his work. In 1931, Braque made his first engraved plasters and began to portray mythological subjects as well as lyrical, colourful still-lifes. His first important retrospective took place in 1933 at the Kunsthalle Basel.
During World War II, Braque remained in Paris. His paintings at that time, primarily still-lifes and interiors, became more sombre, particularly in his macabre Vanitas series. In addition to paintings, Braque also made lithographs, engravings, and sculptures. From the late 1940s, he treated various recurring themes, such as birds, ateliers, landscapes, and seascapes. In 1954, he designed stained-glass windows for the church of Varengeville. During the last few years of his life, Braque’s ill health prevented him from undertaking further large-scale commissions, but he continued to paint, make lithographs, and design jewellery. In 1961, he became the first living artist to have his work exhibited the Louvre. Braque died on 31 August 1963, in Paris.
Braque’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Kunstmuseum, Basel; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon; the Tate Collection, London.
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