Following the show’s September debut at the Grand Palais in Paris, "Georges Braque: A Retrospective" will be the first comprehensive museum survey of the work of Georges Braque (1882–1963) seen in the United States since 1988
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), will be the only U.S. venue to present Georges Braque: A Retrospective, the definitive retrospective of this generation that maps the evolution of this seminal artist’s career through his major paintings and collages. A selection of 75 defining works will be displayed, ranging from the artist’s early, bold Fauvist paintings, to the radical Cubist compositions that shaped the course of modern art, to the lyrical still lifes and landscape abstractions of his later years. Georges Braque will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from February 16 to May 11, 2014.
Premiering at the Grand Palais, Paris, on September 18, 2013, Georges Braque: A Retrospective has been organized by the Réunion des musées nationaux to mark the 50th anniversary of Braque’s death, and is curated by Brigitte Léal, chief curator of historical collections at the Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris. The Houston presentation will be an edited version of the Paris survey, drawing upon the Centre Pompidou's deep collections of Braque's work, with additional loans gathered from public and private collections across Europe and the United States. It is the first retrospective of the artist presented by a U.S. museum since the 1988 exhibition organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
"Georges Braque is unquestionably one of the finest and most influential painters of the 20th century, yet he remains less recognized than his friend and collaborator, Pablo Picasso, with whom he invented Cubism," said Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "This exhibition speaks eloquently to Braque's unique achievement and reveals his genius to new audiences."
"Georges Braque: A Retrospective will present the artist afresh, tracking the intellectual rigor and technical mastery with which Braque revolutionized painting," said Alison de Lima Greene, curator of contemporary art and special projects at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "It is a privilege to work with Brigitte Léal to bring this brilliant and thoughtfully curated exhibition to America."
Among the Wild Beasts
Georges Braque (1882–1963) was the son and grandson of house painters who specialized in trompe l'oeil decorations. Initially trained at the École des Beaux-Arts, Le Havre, and the Académie Humbert, Paris, Braque also apprenticed to enter his family's trade. However, he soon broke with the conventions of his academic training. On encountering the work of Henri Matisse (1869–1954) and André Derain (1880–1954), artists who had been nick-named Les Fauves ("The Wild Beasts"), at the Salon d'Automne in 1905, he adopted their brilliant and at times acid colors and bold brushwork. The exhibition opens with a selection of Braque's first mature paintings from these years, including Houston's celebrated Le Canal Saint-Martin (Saint-Martin Canal) (1906), Paysage de l’Estaque (Estaque Landscape) (1906), from the Centre Pompidou and Paysage de la Ciotat (La Ciotat Landscape) (1907), from the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Bridging Post-Impressionist themes and painterly techniques with a new expressive force, these works remain among Braque's most popularly loved paintings.
Braque and the Invention of Cubism
In 1907, the Salon d'Automne presented a monumental exhibition dedicated to the career of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). Profoundly moved by the classical structure of Cézanne's landscapes and still-life compositions, Braque began to adopt a cooler palette and a more rigorous analysis of form that was to guide the balance of his career. This new tendency was further confirmed by his first visit to the studio of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), where he encountered the radical Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907). Within a year, Braque and Picasso initiated one of the most rigorous and fruitful artistic collaborations of the 20th century. "The things that Picasso and I said to one another during those years will never be said again, and even if they were, no one would understand them anymore," Braque recalled. "It was like being roped together on a mountain."
By the end of 1908, Braque and Picasso had entered into a creative dialogue that would result in the essential pictorial language of Cubism. Moving from analysis to synthesis, Braque played a vital role in this partnership through his mastery of illusion and pioneering use of collage. Braque’s rapid evolution between 1908 and 1914 will be illustrated by over thirty paintings and collages, including Houston’s Le port (Fishing Boats) (1908-09), Soda (1912), from the Museum of Modern Art, and Compotier et cartes (Fruit Dish and Cards) (1913), from the Centre Pompidou.
When war was declared in 1914, Braque enlisted with the French Army; severely wounded in the field in 1915, he did not return to his studio until 1917. Once colleagues who compared themselves to the Wright brothers, Braque and Picasso never recovered their former friendship.
Braque at Mid-Career
While his alliance with Picasso had come to an end, Braque continued to explore the formal departures of Cubism, playing transparency and opacity against increasingly rich and densely articulated interiors. After 1917, his work also assumed a new monumentality and chromatic drama.
The importance of this era of Braque's work has been recognized most recently in the 2013 special exhibition Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, organized by the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, and The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. In Houston it will be possible to see this era in further depth, with such major works as Fruits sur une nappe et compotier (Fruit on Tablecloth and Fruit Dish) (1925), and Le Duo (The Duet) (1937), from the Centre Pompidou, and the Menil Collection’s monumental Grand intérior avec palette (Large Interior with Palette) (1942).
World War II and the Late Paintings
While Braque rarely referred directly to the conditions in France during World War II, he remained an influential presence among the artists who chose to remain there during these years. He also produced some of his most powerful paintings in the 1940s, including his extended Billiard series, in which the billiard table becomes both an arena and broken field. On view in Houston will be the Centre Pompidou and Tate Gallery’s great Billiard paintings (1944 and 1945), as well as one drawn from a private collection.
Braque entered what critics have called his "Late Period" after World War II. As the exhibition reveals, Braque continued to develop new themes in his work, ranging from his densely layered studio paintings of 1949-56 to the elemental simplicity of his final landscapes. In 1961, at age 79, Braque became the first living artist to be granted an exhibition at the Musée du Louvre and he was awarded state honors at his funeral in 1963.
The exhibition premiered at the Grand Palais in Paris and is on view from September 18, 2013, to January 6, 2014. Georges Braque: A Retrospective is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from February 16 to May 11, 2014.
Georges Braque: A Retrospective is accompanied by a French-language catalogue written by Brigitte Léal, with additional contributions from an international roster of scholars, including Henry Claude-Cousseau, Philippe Dagen, Maryline Desbiolles, Claudine Grammont, Christopher Green, Alison de Lima Greene, Eminence-Alain Hubert, Joel Huthworth, Remi Labrusse, Claire Paulhan and Maria Stavrinaki. Publication of the catalogue is coordinated by the Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais.
Organization and Funding
Georges Braque: A Retrospective is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais with the partnership of Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Generous funding is provided by:
The Brown Foundation, Inc. / Jeff Fort
Robert Lehman Foundation
About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH)
Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the 10 largest art museums in the United States. Located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the MFAH comprises two gallery buildings, a sculpture garden, theater, two art schools and two libraries, with two house museums, for American and European decorative arts, nearby. The encyclopedic collection of the MFAH numbers some 65,000 works and spans the art of antiquity to the present.