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The Religious Affiliation of Celebrated French Painter
Lithograph by Georges Braque: Resurrection of the Bird, 1959. 8.25 x 15 in. Ed. Galerie Maeght, Paris. Pubished in Cogniat, page 81.
Painting by Georges Braque: The Guitarist, 1917. Oil, 86.5 x 44 in. Laroche Collection, Kunstmuseum, Basel. Published in Cogniat, page 27.
Georges Braque is described as a man completely in harmony with the time and place in which he lived. He appears to have expressed neither unusual religious devotion nor irreligiosity or unorthodoxy. In keeping with the culture in which he lived, Braque seems to have been a primarily secular person.
Braque was interested mostly in art from a young age and devoted to his artistic work. Georges Braque's father and grandfather were professional house painters who both painted artistically as an avocation. Georges Braque began serious art training in his teen years. Fine art may have been the only religion of significance in his life.
Overtly religious themes are essentially absent from the art of Georges Braque.
From: Raymond Cogniat (translated from the French by Eileen B. Hennessy), Bracque, Crown Publishers, Inc: New York City (1970), pages 5-8:
We have often wished that a work of art was admired independently of the incidents of the period which witnessed its birth or the events experienced by the man who created it... It is unthinkable... to envisage Braque's work -- and especially his role in the birth of Cubism -- in this independence, for not matter how personal it may be, it is nevertheless a phenonemon determined by its age. On the contrary, we must constantly return to the facts, not for their picturesque character, but in order to understand the profound meaning of this orientation in the first half of the twentieth century. To begin with, the artist's social position must be kept in mind, for his place within a well-defined system always explains one aspect of his art, even when the latter appears to be individual and independent.From: Cogniat, page 18:
The entire art of the nineteenth century is marked by the accession of the middle class to positions of control and political, social, and economic management, that is, the acquisition of power by the class which possessed the material and financial means. To the same extent as Impressionism, Romanticism exists as a function of this class, although the latter often began by refusing that which was destined for it. Almost all of the most original artists, those whose strong personalities scandalized people because they destroyed routinism, belonged to this middle class -- modest in the case of Corot, powerful in the case of Manat, always prosperous, a class that regarded art ias a superfluity, not as a goal, and especially not as a reason for or a means of living.
To be sure, there were a few exceptions, such as Daumier and Renoir. They can be considered precursors, heralds of a democritization that was to begin at the end of the century and of which the pathetic battle of Van Gogh is the shining example: the artist of humble origin, possessed by a faith, desperately pursing the discovery of himself by his own means, and involuntary rebel by his very nature, and one who is obliged to discover his path alone, the honest craftsman who with goodwill learns the formulas of his trade without having to reinvent everything if he wishes to fulfill himself.
In short, during the nineteenth century, artists were produced by a middle class of aristocratic and conservative tendencies, a society of notables composed of manufacturers and important functionaries. As a consequence of the evolution of ideas and customs, the young artists who were to enter active life at the beginning of the twentieth century and give new orientations to art sprang generally from another environment, from a proletarian and republican middle class consisting of merchants and craftsmen. Derain's famiy were bakers; Braque's father was a house painter, while Rouault's father was a cabinetmaker, and Vlaminck was a bicycle racer.
Braque thus belonged comlpetely to this new generation, to this solid, obstinate artisan class in which new ideas were accumulating and becoming ingrained. Born at Argenteuil on May 13, 1882, from his birth he had been prepared for the existence, since first his grandfather and then his father had managed a house-painting business and, for relaxation, had sometimes painted canvases, some of which revealed sufficient skill to win their acceptance for the Salon des Artistes Francais.
In 1890 the family business was moved from Argenteuil to Le Havre. Young Georges entered the high school of that city three years later. Soon he was simultaneoulsy taking evening courses at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts... learning drawing from plaster copies of sculptures of antiquity, with M. Courchet as his teacher...From: Cogniat, page 21, 36:
Being disinclined to continue his other studies, at the age of 17 he went to work in his father's business. In 1899 he became an apprentice to the painter-decorator Roney, in order to be initiated into the techniques of the craft. At the Ecole de Beaux-Arts he had got as far as the study of oil painting. At the end of 1900, he went to Paris, where he settled in the rue des Trois Freres in Montmartre, went to work for Laberthe, a former employee of his father, in order to continue his training as a painter-decorator, and in the evening attended the free public course in drawing, directed by Quignolot, at the Batignolles.
His year of military service, which he fulfilled near Le Havre starting in October 1901, scarcely interrupted his [artistic] activity, since by 1902, back in Paris, he returned to live in the rue Lepic in Montmartre and to work at the Academie Humbert in the Boulevard Rochechouart. From that moment on he gave up the idea of following his father's career [as a house painter-dectorator], and decided to devote himself to painting...
In 1907 he exhibited seven paintings at the Salon des Independants. All seven were sold. From then on he belonged to the avant-garde which was beginning to revolutionize the accepted ideas about painting.
Without affecting misanthropy or asceticism, and also without any desire to make himself conspicuous, Braque was always able to preserve his independence and ignore the manifestations of snobbery and the eccentricities for which his perios was famous. From the birth of Cubism he was regarded as one of the greatest artists of his generation, and his reputation continued to spread and assert itself. While he remained apart from fads and exhibitions, his reserve, which bordered on solitude, did not acquire the appearance of an arrogant response to the exaggerations of fashion. Simply, he needed quiet in order to work, and the result of his circumspection was that the great success which he enjoyed could never be attributed to intrigue.
From the very beginnings of Cubism, Braque's originality became evident, and quickly won him a large international audience. His individual showings in Belgium, England, and the United States, which constantly increased his following, were numerous. The Carnegie prize was awarded to him in 1937, and the Grand Prize of the Venice Biennale in 1948. When he died on August 31, 1963, he was so universally recognized as one of the greatest painters of the French School that a state funeral was given him, with an ostenstatious ceremony in the Cour Carree of the Louvre Palace. It was the first time that the French Republic had paid such homage to a painter who during his career had remained aloof from all conformity and who had never demonstrated the slightest inclination for official approval.
Braque's life thus unfolded normally, almost in a banal manner, in harmony with the events, rhythm, and spirit of his age. His distinguishing feature was that he was not like everyone else, and that he differed from everyone else so naturally and so completely that he was superior to everyone else. His childhood and adolescence were passed in a turn-of-the-century atmosphere, in a provincial city, in the acceptance of what was proper and permissible, in a respectable family which was not even surprised at his fondness for painting. He was so much in harmony with his surroundings, and so humanly impregnated by his environment and his age, that he is one of those who constructed it and gave it a face consonant with intimate truths which without him would perhaps not have been expressed so intensely. The atmosphere of serenity that dominates Braque's entire work, even in his struggles, must be sought and explained within this harmony.