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Violin and Palette by Georges Braque

Today we look at Violin and Palette by Georges Braque, for Artwork in Focus. Join me Divvya Nirula as I explore and present my experience of the selected artwork.

Artwork in Focus

Title: Violin and Palette
Artist : Georges Braque
Year : 1909
Medium : Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions :  36 1/8 x 16 7/8 inches (91.7 x 42.8 cm)
Location : Guggenheim, New York

Violin Palettem 1909 by Geroges Braque image courtesy : Guggenheim

Violin and Palette and Cubism

This artwork represents two things that were extremely close to Braque, music and art. He was trained in music and art was his passion. It is therefore not uncommon that he presented them both, in his own interpretation. Interestingly, musical instruments like guitars, violins, and clarinets appeared frequently in Cubist paintings. Braque is considered as one of the founders of the movement, along with Pablo Picasso.

At one level the deliberate repetition of subject matter encouraged the audience to focus on the technical innovations of Cubism. On another, it would take them away from the specificity of the subject/object. Moreover, the deconstructiveness of the works were a direct counterpoint to the harmony that music conveyed. This juxtaposition created a layer of meaning that we as viewers are invited to take a journey into. Picasso and Braque regularly collaborated on their works, depicting references to music, instruments and sheet music.

This could be considered as an example of ‘Analytic Cubism’, where Braque was shallowing space by reducing the colour palette. It keeps in line with the virtues of cubist painting that aims to show the same object from variable positions.

Experiencing the work

Even though the objects are splintered in the work, it is still recognizable. As we look we see an abstraction, but not yet so complete as to render the object alien. Above all the pieces merge into the surrounding space smoothly. Each brushstroke is placed like a note, and the whole is the symphony with which we are presented. The magic is when the eyes move from one plane to the other, within the composition. Just as the eyes gradually adjust to light and gradations there is something new to focus on. It could be a line, a curve, or a shadow.

Noticeable in Violin and Palette, the violin, the music sheets, along with the artist’s palette are vertically arranged, emphasising their correlation to the two-dimensional surface. Expressing an intimacy that Braque highlights when he says,

“When fragmented objects appeared in my painting around 1909, it was a way for me to get as close as possible to the object as painting allowed.”

Georges Braque

Other Details

I have always found Braque’s works to invite me in to meditate with what I see. He brings to life that which is still, an object from the three-demential world onto the canvas. Almost as if to suggest and say – so what if you can’t touch, you can see, you can hear! In this sense, his use of musical instruments as subjects become even more significant. Why? Because as we view it the sounds and touch come alive in our mind. This is the power of Braque’s Violin and Plaette. Simply understood, just the way harmony and rhythm is the life of musical instruments, dynamic spatial movement is at the heart of Braque’s lyrical Cubist paintings.

Want to read more of my views on artworks that hold my attention ? Visit the archive for Artwork in Focus.

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