Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Facets of Genius

George Braque, co-founder with Picasso of Cubism, celebrated his 125th birthday last Sunday, May 13th. Picasso’s greater fame often unjustly overshadows Braque’s contribution to Cubism and 20th century art.

Before Cubism, Braque actually painted in a Fauvist style after seeing an exhibit of Henri Matisse and other Fauvists. The wonderful color of such works as The Port at Antwerp (above) cannot be more different from the subdued Cubist works just a few years later. These Fauvist works appeal to the eye and the imagination, whereas the Cubist works appeal primarily to the mind and then the imagination.

Man With a Guitar from 1911 (above), currently at the MoMA, represents the finest of what Braque and Picasso called Analytic Cubism. The painter explodes the subject from within, trying to present every facet, every angle of the three-dimensional object at once on a two-dimensional picture plane. This approach takes Cezanne’s simplification of all visual reality into cylinders, spheres, pyramids, and cubes to an intellectualized extreme.

I confess that Cubism appeals less to me than more strikingly colorful movements such as Fauvism. My placement of Braque’s Fauve work over his Cubist masterpiece might give that away. Cubism is the Rubik’s Cube of art to me, a puzzle perhaps not worth unpuzzling. Picasso’s sculpture of a Cubist Guitar blew me away when I saw it at the MoMA, but that’s a rare instance of this type of intellectualized art appealing to me. I hate to sound anti-intellectual, but there’s always a cost analysis running in my head when I see these works and try to decide whether the time invested is worth the pleasure received. It’s simply a case of so many pictures, so little time. “Had we but world enough, and time,” Andrew Marvell wistfully said “To His Coy Mistress.” The same goes for me and the vast and varied world of art.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree Braque's Cubism overshadows his Fauve work but the Fauve work is so much more interesting it seems like a huge leap going from such vibrant work to the monochronic.