In 1909, a daring, 27-year-old artist from Le Havre submitted a landscape...well...sort of a landscape anyway....to the Salon des Independents in Paris (the exhibit descendant from the Salon de Refuse of the Impressionist era.) Entitled Port in Normandy, the painting kind of shook things up in the art world. It was the first Cubist painting ever shown in a major exhibition. No, the artist wasn't Pablo Picasso, but his friend and cohort, Georges Braque. The two had met but recently, however they quickly discovered a mutual interest in the study of painted masses and were in the process of arranging joint studio space to pursue their interests in this new departure.
Braque was born in 1882 near Argenteuil in France. (Picasso was a year older). As a small child, Braque's parents moved to Le Havre where he began his training in the local art school as an apprentice to a decorator/painter. Later, he moved to Paris and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. During this period, he met and made friends with artists such as Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy, both of whom influenced his becoming part of the Fauve circle. It was shortly thereafter that he met Picasso. Though eventually overshadowed by his new "partner in crime", at that time, both men were relatively unknown artists, struggling to make a name for themselves along with a few Francs for bread and wine.
Port in Normandy bears the hallmark of Cubism, but is not as well developed as the Cubist still-lifes Braque did just a few months later or those of Picasso, who, unlike Braque, also explored portraits in his ongoing studies. Braque's work tends to be cooler in colour and a little more refined that that of Picasso though often their work is all but indistinguishable. Art historians have even suggested that in working together, side by side in the same studio, they may even have worked on one another's paintings. After the two men drifted apart, their work became more distinctive. Picasso's painted forms began to flatten and simplify, ushering in the synthetic phase of the movement while the work of Braque tended more toward abstract expressionism. Braque died in Paris in 1963 having shared some of the fame, but little of the notoriety of his former associate. He was 81.
contributed by Lane, Jim
28 March 1998