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Violin and Palette by Georges Braque

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Violin and Palette by Georges Braque.

About the Work

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

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.

At one level the deliberate repetition of subject matter encouraged the audience to focus on the technical innovations of Cubism; while 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, arriving at a layer of meaning. 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, reducing the colour palette. It keeps in line with the virtues of cubist painting that aims to show the same object from variable positions.

Even though the objects are splintered in the work, it is still recognizable. The pieces merge into the surrounding space smoothly though. The magic is when the eyes move from one plane to the other, within the composition. The eyes gradually adjust to light and gradations. 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.

“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

Understanding the import of Braque’s work, that art appeals to still life and its implied tactile qualities. In this sense, musical instruments held even more significance, as they come alive by one’s touch. 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.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit the archive for Artwork in Focus.

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