Georges Braque

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Georges Braque, 1908

Georges Braque (13 May 188231 August 1963) was a French painter and sculptor. Along with Pablo Picasso he was one of the creators of Cubism.


  • You see, I have made a great discovery. I no longer believe in anything. Objects don't exist for me except in so far as a rapport exists between them or between them and myself. When one attains this harmony, one reaches a sort of intellectual non-existence — what I can only describe as a sense of peace, which makes everything possible and right. Life then becomes a perpetual revelation. That is true poetry.
    • In: The Power of Mystery (7 December 1957), a London Observer interview with John Richardson, as quoted in Braque : The Late Works (1997), by John Golding, Introduction, p. 10
    • Unsourced variant translation: I made a great discovery. I don't believe in anything anymore. Objects do not exist for me, except that there is a harmonious relationship among them, and also between them and myself. When one reaches this harmony, one reaches a sort of intellectual void. This was everything becomes possible, everything becomes legitimate, and life is a perpetual revelation. This is true song.
  • In art progress consists not in extension but in the knowledge of its limits.
    • In: the review 'Nord-Sud', December 1917, taken from his writing during his long convalescence in the hospital, after he was seriously wounded in World War 1, in 1915
  • Thanks to the oval I have discovered the meaning of the horizontal and the vertical.
    • In: Abstract Painting, Michel Seuphor, Dell Publishing Co. (1964); p. 39
  • Art is polymorphic. A picture appears to each onlooker under a different guise.
    • In: 'Cahiers d’Art', No. 10, 1935, ed. Christian Zervos
  • Whatever is valuable in painting is precisely what one is incapable of talking about.
    • In: 'Les Problèmes de la Peinture', interview with Gaston Diehl, Paris 1945
  • It is the limitation of means that determine style, gives rise to new forms and makes creativity possible.
    • In: 'Les Problèmes de la Peinture', interview with Gaston Diehl, Paris 1945
  • To avoid a projection towards infinity I am interposing overlaid planes a short way off. To make it understood that things are in front of each other instead of being scattered in space.
    • In: 'Entretien avec Jauqes Lassaigne' - 1961; as quoted in Futurism', ed. By Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 94
  • By using a white paint applied to the canvas I make a napkin. But I am sure the white shape is something conceived before knowing what it was to become. This means that a certain transformation has taken place.. ..In a painting, what counts is the unexpected.
    • In: 'Le Monologue du Peintre', George Charbonnier, Paris 1959
  • Evidence exhausts the truth.
    • In: 'Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde', ed. Charles Juliet, First Dalkey Archive edition, 2009, London and Champaign pp. 60-61

In conversation with Dora Vallier - 1954, as quoted in Letters of the Great Artists – From Blake to Pollock (1963)[edit]

Quotes of Braque from an interview with Dora Vallier in 1954, as quoted in Letters of the Great Artists – From Blake to Pollock (1963) by Richard Friedenthal, translation: Daphne Woodward,
  • At that time I was very friendly with Picasso. Our temperaments were very different, but we had the same idea. Later on it became clear, Picasso is Spanish and I am French; as everyone knows that mean a lot of differences, but during those days the differences did not count... We were living in Montmarte, we used to meet every day, we used to talk... In those years Picasso and I said things to each other that nobody will ever say again, that nobody could say any more... It was rather like a pair of climbers roped together.
    • p. 264 - referring to the early starting years of Cubism ca. 1907 -1910 in Paris with Picasso
  • I felt dissatisfied with traditional perspective. Merely a mechanical process, this perspective never conveys things in full. It starts from one viewpoint and never gets away from it. But the viewpoint is quite unimportant. It is though someone were to draw profiles all his life, leading people to think that a man has only one eye... When one got to thinking like that, everything changed, you cannot imagine how much!
    • p. 264
  • What greatly attracted me – and it was the main line of advance of Cubism – was how to give material expression to this new space of which I had an inkling. So I began to paint chiefly still life’s, because in nature there is a tactile, I would almost say a manual space. I wrote about this moreover ‘When a still-life is no longer within reach, it ceases to be a still-life... For me that expressed the desire I have always had to touch a thing, not just to look at it. It was that space that attracted me strongly, for that was the earliest Cubist painting – the quest for space.
    • In conversation with Dora Vallier (1954), p. 264
  • When we were so friendly with Picasso, there was a time when we had difficulty in recognizing our own pictures. Later, when the revelation went deeper, differences appeared. Revelation is the one thing that cannot be taken from you. But before the revelation took place, there was still a marked intention of carrying painting in a direction that could re-establish the bond between Picasso and ourselves.
    • p. 265 - Braque is in this quote referring to the early start of Cubism ca. 1907 -1910, in Paris with Picasso
  • I considered that the painter’s personality should be kept out of things, and therefore pictures should be anonymous. It was I who decided that pictures should not be signed, and for a time Picasso did the same. I thought that from the moment someone else could do the same as myself, there was no difference between the pictures and they should not be signed. Afterwards I realized it was not so and began to sign my pictures again. Picasso had begun again anyhow. I realized that one cannot reveal oneself without mannerism, without some evident trace of one’s personality. But all the same one should not go too far in that direction..
    • p. 265
  • If I have called Cubism a new order, it is without any revolutionary ideas or any reactionary ideas... One cannot escape form one’s own epoch, however revolutionary one may be. I do not think my painting has ever been revolutionary. It was not directed against any kind of painting. I have never wanted to prove that I was right and someone else wrong... If there is a touch of reaction, since life imposes that, it is minute. And then it is so difficult to judge a thing historically, separated from its environment: it is the relationship between a man and what he does that counts. That’s what good and touches us.
    • p. 265
  • If we had never met Picasso, would Cubism have been what it is? I think not. The meeting with Picasso was a circumstance in our lives.
    • p. 265

Cahier d’art, 1954, by Dora Vallier[edit]

Quotes from Cahier d’art, Paris 1954, by Dora Vallier - Paris 1954
  • I am always working on a number of canvases at one time, eight, ten.. ..I take years to finish them, but I look at them each day.. ..You see the advantage of not working from real life – the apples would be rotten long before I completed my canvas.. .I find that it is important to work slowly. Anyone who looks at such a canvas will follow the same path the artist took, and he will experience that it is the path which counts more than the outcome of it, and that the route taken has been the most interesting part.
    • p. 14
  • I started above all by producing still-lives because in nature there is a tactile space, I would say almost manual.
    • p. 16 - In: 'Braque, la peinture et nous'
  • Picasso and I said things to each other during those particular years ( 1910 -1913) that nobody would any longer know how to say, that nobody would be able to understand any.. ..things that would be incomprehensible, and which gave us so much pleasure.
    • p. 14 - In: 'Braque, la peinture et nous'

The Observer, interview with John Richardson (1957)[edit]

Quotes from The Observer, by John Richardson, 1 December 1957
  • It is the act of painting, not the finished painting.
  • Take the birds which you’ll have noticed in so many of my recent paintings. I never thought them up, they just materialized of their own accord, they were born on the canvas; that is why it is absurd to read any sort of symbolic significance into them.
  • I would say that it was 'poetry' which distinguishes the cubist paintings which Picasso and I arrived at intuitively from the lifeless sort of painting which those who followed us tried, with such unfortunate results, to arrive at theoretically.
  • I will try to explain what I mean by metamorphosis. For me no object can be tied down to any sort of reality. A stone may be part of a wall, a piece of sculpture, a lethal weapon, a pebble on a beach or anything else you like.. ..when you ask me whether a particular in one of my paintings depicts a woman’s head, a fish, a vase, a bird, or all four at once, I can’t give you a categorical answer., for this 'metamorphosic' confusion is fundamental to the poetry.
  • The only valid thing in art is that which cannot be explained. To explain away the mystery of a great painting – if such a feat were possible – would be irreparable harm.. ..If there is no mystery than there is no 'poetry', the quality I value above all else in art. What do I mean by 'poetry'? It is to a painting what life is to man.. ..For me it is a matter of harmony, of rapports, of rhythm and – most important for my own work – of 'metamorphosis'
  • There are certain mysteries, certain secrets in my own work, which even I don’t understand, nor do I try to do so.. ..Critics should help people see for themselves; they should never try to define things, or impose their own explanations, though I admit that if – as nearly always happens – a critic’s explanations serve to increase the general obscurity that’s all to the good. French poets are particularly helpful in this respect.
  • The whole Renaissance tradition is antipathic to me. The hard-and-fast rules of perspective which it succeeded in imposing on art were a ghastly mistake which it has taken four centuries to redress; Cezanne and after him Picasso and myself can take a lot of credit for this.. ..scientific perspective forces the objects in a picture to disappear away form the beholder instead of bringing them within his reach as painting should.

Braque, by Edwin Mullins (1968)[edit]

Quotes from Braque, by Edwin Mullins, Thames and Hudson, London 1968
  • We (Picasso and Braque) were living in Montmartre, we saw each other every day.. ..We were like two mountaineers roped together. (Braque is describing their common years circa 1907 - 1912)
    • p. 10
  • One day I noticed that I could go on working art my motif no matter what the weather might be. In no longer needed the sun, for I took my light everywhere with me.
    • p. 30 - from the book written by John Rusell, London 1959
  • I couldn't portray a women in all her natural loveliness.. ..I haven’t the skill. No one has. I must, therefore, create a new sort of beauty, the beauty that appears to me in terms of volume of line, of mass, of weight, and through that beauty interpret my subjective impression. Nature is mere a pretext for decorative composition, plus sentiment. It suggests emotion, and I translate that emotion into art. I want to express the absolute, not merely the factitious woman. (Braque's art statement given to the American 'Gelett Burgess', late in 1908)
    • p. 34 In: 'The wild men of Paris' in The Architectural Record, May 1910
  • What particularly attracted me (in his painting ‘Still-life with Musical instruments, 1908 – 1909).. ..was the materialization of this new space that I felt to be in the offing. So I began to concentrate on still-life’s, because in the still-life you have a tactile, I might almost say a manual space.. ..This answered to the hankering I have always had to touch things and not merely see them. It was this space that particularly attracted me, for this was the first concern of Cubism, the investigation of space.. ..In tactile space you measure the distance separating you from the object, whereas in visual space you measure the distance separating things from each other. This is what led me, long ago, from landscape to still-life.
    • p. 41
  • ...when objects shattered into fragments appeared in my painting about 1909; this for me was a way of getting closest to the object... Fragmentation helped me to establish space and movement in space.
    • p. 55
  • Colour could give rise to sensations which would interfere with our (Braque and Picasso, in the start of Cubism) conception of space.
    • p. 55
  • I started to introduce letters into my pictures. These were forms which could not be deformed., because, being two-dimensional, they existed outside three-dimensional space; their inclusion in a picture allowed a distinction to be made between objects which were situated in space and those which belonged outside space (the letters).
    • p. 68
  • Colour came into its own with papiers collés.. ..with these works we (Braque and a little later Picasso started to make 'collage art', around 1912) succeeded in dissociating colour from form, in putting it on a footing independent of form, for that was the crux of the matter. Colour acts simultaneously with form, but has nothing to do with form.
    • p. 75
  • Speaking purely for myself, I can say that it was my very acute feeling for thematière, for the substance of painting, which pushed me into thinking about the possibilities of the medium. I wanted to create a kind of substance by means of brush-work. But that is the kind of discovery which one makes gradually, though once a beginning had been made other discoveries follow. Thus it was that I subsequently began to introduce sand, sawdust and metal filings into my pictures. For I suddenly saw the extent to which colour is related to the substance.. ..So my great delight was the 'material' character which I could give to my pictures by introducing these extraneous elements. In short, they provided me with a means of getting further away from idealism in 'representing' the things with which I was concerned.
    • p. 76 - from 'Cahiers d’Art', 1954, ed. Dora Vallier
  • Whatever is in common is true; but likeness is false. Trouillebert’s work bears a likeness to that of Corot (Braque admired Corot and used Corot’s young country-ladies as models, for instance in his painting ‘Souvenirs de Corot’, 1922/23 and in his own work), but they have nothing in common.
    • p. 96 - from 'Cahiers d’Art', No. 10, 1935, ed. Christian Zervos - quote of Braque is referring to Corot’s heavy impact on his art
  • You put a blob of yellow here, and another at the further edge of the canvas: straight away a rapport is established between them. Colour acts in the way that music does, if you like… …There is more sensitivity in technique than in the rest of the picture.
    • p. 163 - from 'Cahiers d’Art'’, 1954, ed. Dora Vallier

Artists on Art, from the 14th – 20th centuries, by Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves (1972)[edit]

Quotes from Artists on Art – from the 14th – 20th centuries, by Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves, Pantheon Books, 1972
  • One must beware of a formula good for everything, that will serve to interpret the other arts as well as reality, and that instead of creating will only produce a style, or rather a stylization.
    • p. 422 - Braque's quote, Paris 1917
  • The arts which achieve their effect through purity have never been arts that were good for everything. Greek sculpture (among others) with its decadence, teaches us this.
    • p. 422 - Braque's quote, Paris 1917
  • The painter thinks in terms of form and color. The goal is not to be concerned with the reconstitution of an anecdotal fact, but with constitution of a pictorial fact.
    • p. 422 - Braque's quote, Paris 1917
  • * The painter thinks in terms of form and color. The goal is not to be concerned with the reconstitution of an anecdotal fact, but with constitution of a pictorial fact.
    • p. 422 - Braque's quote, Paris 1917
  • In art progress does not consist in extension, but in the knowledge of limits.
  • Limitation of means determines style, engenders new form, and give impulses to creation.
  • Limited means often constitute the charm and force of primitive painting. Extension, on the contrary, leads the arts to decadence.
  • New means, new subjects.
  • The subject is not the object; it is a new unity, a lyricism which grows completely from the means.
    • p. 422 - short quotes by Georges Braque on 'Means' - Paris, 1917

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