Friday, December 27, 2013

Georges Braque (exhibition) (Grand Palais, Paris)

Georges Braque, L’oiseau noir et l’oiseau blanc, 1960, Huile sur toile, 134 x 167,5 cm, Paris © Leiris SAS Paris © Adagp, Paris 2013.
Georges Braque, L’oiseau noir et l’oiseau blanc,1960, Huile sur toile, 134 x 167,5 cm, Paris © Leiris SAS Paris © Adagp, Paris 2013 - See more at:
Exposition Georges Braque. 18 Septembre 2013 - 6 Janvier 2014. Grand Palais, Galeries nationales, Paris. Viewed on 27 Dec 2013.

Commissaire: Brigitte Leal. Scénographes: Didier Blin, assisté d'Alice Sabatier. Graphistes: Noémie Lelièbre, Arnaud Sergent.

"Le Grand Palais présente la première rétrospective consacrée à Georges Braque (1882-1963) depuis près de quarante ans. Initiateur du cubisme et inventeur des papiers collés, il fut l’une des figures d’avant-garde du début du XXe siècle, avant de recentrer son œuvre sur l’exploration méthodique de la nature morte et du paysage. L’exposition propose un nouveau regard porté sur l’œuvre de l’artiste et une mise en perspective de son travail avec la peinture, la littérature ou la musique de son temps. Exposition organisée par la Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais en partenariat avec le Centre Pompidou. Exposition réalisée grâce au soutien de Nexity."
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"This retrospective, dedicated to the major 20th century artist Georges Braque, will survey all the periods of his artistic creation, from Fauvism to his final works culminating in the magnificent art studios and birds series. The exhibition will focus on highlights in his career, such as Cubism, the Canéphores (Basket Carriers) of the 1920’s, and his final landscapes. Exhibition organized by the Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais and the Centre Pompidou. The exhibition is sponsored by Nexity."

An epic journey into 20th century art via a key figure, Georges Braque.

Condensing key data from the handbill of the exhibition:
1905: discovery of Fauvism.
1906: Cercle de l'Art Moderne in Le Havre.
1907: in L'Estaque and La Ciotat, landscapes reflecting the influence of Cézanne. Apollinaire introduces him to Picasso.
1908: first solo exhibition at the Galerie Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, featuring geometric landscapes now credited as the official beginnings of Cubism.
1909: at La Roche-Guyon, painting the first Analytic Cubist landscapes.
1911: adding stencilled letters and numbers to his paintings
1912: his first collage, Compotier et verre, introducing a foreign element to the work, creating a distinction between colour and form.
1913: Synthetic Cubist period, incorporating pre-existing objects into paintings: pasted papers, imitations of materials, printed symbols.
1914: enlisted in the French Army, sent to the front line on the Somme.
1915: receives a serious head wound, losing eyesight temporarily.
1919: second solo exhibition, including still-lifes. Friendship with Erik Satie.
1922: Les Canéphores, a new classical inspiration.
1924: collaboration with Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. First exhibition at the gallery of his new dealer, Paul Rosenberg.
1925: Studio designed by Auguste Perret near the Parc Montsouris in Paris.
1930: Studio designed by Paul Nelson, in Varengeville-sur-Mer, where the artists makes his home for part of the year.
1932: illustrates an edition of Hesiod's Theogony for Ambroise Vollard. Cycle of paintings, engravings and sculptures inspired by mythological subjects.
1933: retrospective at the Basel Kunsthalle. Carl Einstein writes the first monograph on the artist.
1939: moves to Varengeville on the outbreak of war. Experiments with sculpture, paints a series of symbolic vanitas still-lifes.
1944-1949: Les Billards series.
1947: First exhibition at the gallery owned by Aimé Maeght, his last dealer. Meets poet René Char.
1949-1956: Les Ateliers series.
1953-1962: Les Oiseaux.
1955-1963: final landscapes at Varengeville. (My résumé of the chronology on the handbill.)

The Georges Braque exhibition is epic not only in the scope of the artworks on display, but also as a social phenomenon. There was a mass movement to the exhibition, and the spacious rooms were crowded.

In such circumstances I found it impossible to meditate, and took a cinematic approach, instead. I walked slowly, without stopping, from the beginning to the end. Then I watched the entire run of the artworks in reverse, and finally, once more, from the beginning to the end. The exhibition is chronological, and there is an inner story. It would be easy to make a Georges Braque movie in the style of Luciano Emmer and Alain Resnais, showing only paintings, tracking the inner development of the artist only via them.

Witnessing the birth of Cubism (1908) and the collage and montage approaches to painting (1912) are the most unique rewards of such a retrospective. It is also a record of an inner journey of never standing still, always evolving. Richly rewarding.

As a sociologist I was also struck by the huge demand for such an exhibition. Avant-garde art from a hundred years ago is now embraced by the general audience. The enthusiastic reception also proves that when you do a thing like this with passion and loving care, people will respond.

The art of the display is impeccable, and the subtle, non-reflecting glasses are almost unnoticeable.

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