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Posts tagged ‘Braque’

Marseille to Marbella, Part IV: L’Estaque

Any art historian or Impressionist aficionado will recognise the name L’Estaque even if they cannot bring a vision of the place immediately to mind. Today, this small fishing village could be easily missed. It is now but one suburb merged involuntarily into the insuperable urban sprawl of Marseille. Yet 100 years ago it was at the centre of an artistic movement. Not only did the port and the surrounding landscapes inspire some of the most preeminent forefathers of Impressionism, but it is also credited as being instrumental to the birth of the Cubist movement.

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How and why cubism came about here is unclear, but Cezanne, a forerunner of the movement, was evidently as inspired by the geometric volumes of the railway bridges and houses clinging to the hills as he was by the hard-edged stone quarries near his birth city of Aix. But it was perhaps the contributions of Georges Braque which were to be the most significant. While his initial response to the landscape was a fauvist expression in a multi-coloured palette of startling bright tones, it was his decidedly cubist landscapes depicting L’Estaque’s house-filled hillsides which really put the town, and cubism, on the artistic map.

L’Estaque by Braque and Cezanne

largerGeorges Braque - The Port of L'Estaque, 1906 at Summerset House London Englandl-estaque-view-through-the-pines-1883article_image_3_cezanneGeorges_Braque,_1908,_Maisons_et_arbre,_oil_on_canvas,_40.5_x_32.5_cm,_Lille_Métropole_Museum_of_Modern,_Contemporary_and_Outsider_Art

Given its place in art history, I felt that this little former village had to be on our Marseille itinerary, even though for many, it may go unnoticed. Happily we were able to take a boat the 30 minutes along the bay – a far preferable trip to the alternative of a sweaty commuter train out of the Gare St Charles – and this approach gave us  the advantage of seeing the hillsides of L’Estaque from afar, characterised as they are by the arched railway bridges which feature so predominantly in Cezanne and Braque’s landscapes.

I would be lying if I said that we were blown away by the town. It is, in essence, a very simple seaside village with a hand-full of bars and a port packed with fishing boats. It is also somewhat difficult to imagine the quaint village which Braque and Cezanne might have discovered when they arrived years ago, free from the modern industrial structures which sit just outside the town, and the tall wire fencing which closes off much of the port from view. However, once we strolled up into the higher streets, and looked across both the port and the rooftops of the gradually ascending town, suddenly the shapes and volumes which must have inspired that new cubist way of depiction fell into place, and the true artistic significance of L’Estaque gained clarity.

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Satisfied, therefore, by our trip and the insight it provided into the birth of cubism, we grew fonder of L’Estaque, a notion which a few glasses of rosé on the sunny portside promoted. And then, as though reminding us that a contemporary society also lives today in this town of cubist history, a bugle call and a loudspeaker announced the commencement of Le Joute – a form of water based jousting which captured our attention for the remainder of the afternoon. Only then did we head back onto the water, gliding away from L’Estaque in a boat bound for Marseille, watching behind us as the forms of houses and rail bridges grew smaller until they resembled mere cubes on a craggy hillside…

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Honeymoon Chronicles, Part I: La Colombe d’Or

To say that my wedding and the honeymoon which followed was a whirlwind of emotions would be no exaggeration. Within minutes of cutting our sensational ombre wedding cake in Chelsea, we were whisked off in the old fashioned style, straight to our honeymoon, leaving our guests behind, and sadly no tied up cans trailing our vehicle. Our destination was the French Riviera, and with only further wedding cake to keep post-wedding hangovers at bay, we tried to prepare ourselves mentally for this further change in circumstances as we were whisked through the night to the South of France.

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Our arrival in the tiny village of Saint-Paul de Vence near Nice could not have been more different from the city we had departed. Utterly at peace, with a distinctive fragrance of pines and cypresses freshening the air. As darkness had already descended, the village was permeated by little yellow street lamps, subtly illuminating the central plaza where pétanque balls lay in wait for the following day’s play. And amidst the darkness, one sign glowed more than any other: Lighting a golden dove on a blue and yellow sky, it was the sign of La Colombe d’Or – we had arrived.

Our bedroom at La Colombe d’Or

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La Colombe d’Or (the golden dove) is a legendary destination in the South of France. First opened in the 1920s by Paul and Baptistine Roux, it began life as a quaint little inn nestled against the magnificent ancient ramparts of the village of Saint-Paul de Vence. Its stunning garden terrace abundant in shady fig trees together with its cosy restaurant interior soon began to attract a faithful clientele, and as the French Riviera became progressively more a centre for thinkers and artists, so too did La Colombe become a gathering place for the crème of the artistic set.

Around the pool and in the gardens

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As the years went on, and the Roux family continued to welcome and befriend some of the world’s most famous artists and intellectuals, so too did La Colombe’s remarkable collection of modern art grow, much of which was swapped in exchange for accommodation and their famously delicious Provençal cuisine. So La Colombe d’Or grew, both physically (gradually subsuming neighbouring buildings) and reputationally, and its art collection today stands as one of the most staggering private collections of modern art you could ever hope to see. On its walls, original works by Picasso, Braque, Sonia Delaunay, Calder, Miro, Chagall, Cesar and so many others hang; its leafy terrace is dominated by a stunning ceramic mural by Fernand Leger; and its most stunning swimming pool languishes alongside a remarkable Calder Mobile, a mosaic by Braque, and a recently installed ceramic mural by Sean Scully.

Interiors, and La Colombe’s incredible collection of modern art

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For any enthusiast of 20th century art, or indeed for anyone beloved of the utmost aesthetic tranquility, La Colombe d’Or is a paradise on earth, beyond mere description – it has to be experienced. In the unpretentious little chairs which are clustered on its restaurant terrace, one can see the ghosts of the famous writers and artists who used to sit there in the shadows of the fig trees Jacques Prévert, Yves Montand, James Baldwin, Pablo Picasso… In the unapologetically rustic walls and furniture, you feel as though invited into the warmest of family homes. And in its paradisal gardens, fringed by pillars and scattered with fallen blossom, and alongside that most sensational of swimming pools, you feel as though you have entered some kind of parallel world. Utterly at peace. This was paradise found.

La Colombe’s stunningly cosy restaurant terrace

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And so in La Colombe d’Or, we happily stationed ourselves for the first four days of our honeymoon. And so the rush of emotions which had commenced at our wedding continued. It was to be the most sensational few days imaginable.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Paris | Art tour 2013 – Braque

Lovers of 20th century art will all have heard of French-born artist Georges Braque. Of course I’ve heard of him too, renowned as he is for being co-founder of cubism along with the artist with whom he was thick and thieves in early 20th century Paris, Pablo Picasso. But my acquaintance with Braque has all too often occurred because, seeing a cubist masterpiece hanging in a modern art gallery, I have confused it with a Picasso, only to discover that the work was by Braque. It’s an easy mistake to make – the two artists were practically indecipherable from one another when they started out on the cubism road, a likeness of style which must be put down to the fact that they would discuss one another’s work endlessly day after day, night after night. And Braque was, purportedly, inspired into cubism by his glimpse of Picasso’s now world-famous Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which few understood at the time, Braque being the exception.

So while Braque has, for me, existed solely in the shadows of the far glossier art historical existence of Picasso, I have never had the chance to discover how truly consistently brilliant he was as an artist. That is until this autumn, thanks to the latest blockbuster exhibition of Paris’ Grand Palais, which dedicates two floors of its palatial surrounds in retrospective homage to this French artistic great. I say consistently brilliant, because this show was one of those rare exhibitions where I literally loved almost every single piece, finding myself almost breathless with admiration as I strolled from painting to painting literally in love with what was on the walls before me.\

Early fauvism

The Port at La Ciotat (1907)

The Port at La Ciotat (1907)

Landscape in L'Estaque (1906)

Landscape in L’Estaque (1906)

The show starts with early Braque, whereupon he dabbled largely in the fauvist epoque, with the result that his sunny landscapes of Southern France are imbued with scintillating bright colour which can not help but make the viewer yearn for the summer. But soon enough, after this initial embrace of colour, Braque discovers the more subdued shades of cubism, finding his own when fragmenting a scene into colourless, cubist dimensions. Seminal in cubism’s development was a chance visit to a wallpaper shop when Braque saw a reproduction wood-pattern paper in the window. Purchasing the wallpaper by impulse, it soon inspired Braque to set about creating a series of paper collages, which included, as well as the wallpaper, cardboard, newspaper cuttings – anything he could get his hands on. The effect of this geometric fragmentation was to create the cubist look, and soon enough Picasso was doing the same.

Into cubism, collage and then back to paint

Mandora (1909)

Mandora (1909)

The Viaduct at L'Estaque (1908)

The Viaduct at L’Estaque (1908)

Little Harbour in Normandy (1909)

Little Harbour in Normandy (1909)

Still life with pipe (1913)

Still life with pipe (1913)

Still life on a table with Gillette (1914)

Still life on a table with Gillette (1914)

Violin and Pipe (Le Quotidien) (1913)

Violin and Pipe (Le Quotidien) (1913)

back to painting.... Still Life with Fruit and Ace of Clubs (1913)

back to painting…. Still Life with Fruit and Ace of Clubs (1913)

After several years of collage experimentation, Braque returned to paint, but using the medium to create what were almost pastiches of the collage look – still fragmented, full of geometric shapes, but differing in their progressive return to the bolder colours of his fauvist age, a return which was no doubt eased along by the weakening of his relationship with Picasso, and his strengthening bond with spirited Spanish artist, Juan Gris.

The Table (1928)

The Table (1928)

The Round Table (1929)

The Round Table (1929)

The Duet (1937)

The Duet (1937)

Studio II (1949)

Studio II (1949)

Studio with Skull (1938)

Studio with Skull (1938)

Thus it was that as the 20s and 30s ticked by, Braque’s work moved the cubist spirit further and further, as the artist pushed the boundaries of the movement he had helped to create, until such a time as his works become progressively more figurative, but all the while maintaining the multi-dimensional expression which was central to cubism. Take his billiard table series for example – seen from various angles, Braque’s bold green billiard table is shown from all kinds of impossible angles, and yet there is no mistaking what Braque was trying to depict.

The Billiard Table (1945)

The Billiard Table (1945)

I would be selling the show short to suggest that it all ended there. From colour-drenched fauvism to colour-collected cubism, Braque’s mastery extended to every avenue of life, as he used his pioneering imagery to depict portraits, artist’s studios, landscapes, still life and even greek mythology. From room to room we see an artist who never failed to be inspired, and to inspire his countless followers in response. Never again will Georges Braque be in Picasso’s shadow as far as I am concerned, but level pegging as a genius of 20th century art.

Georges Braque is showing at the Grand Palais, Paris until 6 January 2014.