Friday, April 24, 2015

Styles Change, L’Estaque Remains

In France, just outside of Marseille, there is a small fishing village called L’Estaque, which is known mostly for the landscape paintings produced there during the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist periods. Georges Braque was a French painter, sculptor and collagist, who played an essential role in the development of Cubism in the early 1900’s. His earliest works were inspired by Cézanne and Matisse, “Fauves” of the time. Braque followed Cézanne to L’Estaque in 1906, in order to study painting in a Fauvist style; however, as Braque painted, he found himself enamored by the breadth of landscapes L’Estaque offered. He became more concerned with art as an experience and began to paint the landscapes geometrically in planes. He literally fragmented and fractured the norms of painting in the early twentieth century. In 1907, he even had some of his paintings of L’Estaque shown in the Salon des Indépendants. Braque almost exclusively painted in L’Estaque through both of his short lived Fauvist and Cubist time periods. From 1906, to 1908, Georges Braque remained in L’Estaque, painting both bright, lively paintings of the village, and dark, planar versions of its landscape, and for this reason visual similarities are easy to detect in viewing a breadth of his work from this time. This Exhibition encourages viewers to explore Braque’s different styles of landscape painting with L’Estaque as his place of study and how this effects the viewer’s experience of each piece.

Georges Braque, Paysage de l'Estaque, 1906

Oil on canvas, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

In Braque’s earliest years of painting in L’Estaque, he embraced Fauvism, favoring strong color over representational or realistic values. Paysage de l’Estaque displays common subjects — trees, waterfronts, and village buildings — seen in Braque’s L’Estaque pieces. The village on the bay, framed by trees of brilliant colors, invited the viewer into a lively portrayal L’Estaque. Specifically, this piece utilizes bright colors and loose brushwork, transforming the landscape into a believable dream-like land. Here L’Estaque became a fantasy as Braque painted in nonrepresentational color.

Georges Braque, View of L’Estaque, 1906

Oil on Canvas, Musée de l’Annonciade, Saint-Tropez, France

View of L’Estaque was painted during Braque’s Fauvism period. Though the colors here are still wilder than the cultural norms of the time, the sky and most of the homes are painted in believable colors. Brushwork is loose, but aesthetically pleasing. The road, another common subject because of place, is a vibrant pink color and guides the viewer through the piece. The trees in the foreground mimic the colors of the houses sprinkled throughout the hills. This painting conveys a sense of invitation to the viewer to enter into L’Estaque and explore the vibrancy of the village.

Georges Braque, Paysage de l'Estaque, 1906
Oil on canvas, Musée de l'Annonciade, Saint-Tropez

Because of the rapid nature of the brushstrokes in Braque’s Fauvist paintings, he was able to create many similar pieces, while exploring different variations of the same style. This particular piece is one of the more abstracted paintings within Braque’s L’Estaque works. The viewer is confronted with wild, vibrating colors, and rather than a feeling a sense of invitation to walk through this landscape, the viewer’s response becomes hard looking. Because of the slightly abstracted style and the contrasting blues and oranges with reds and greens, L’Estaque is transformed into a mere impression of a house or two amongst some trees.

Georges Braque, The Viaduct at L'Estaque, 1907

Oil on canvas, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gallery G371

The Viaduct at L’Estaque displays one of Braque’s first subtle shifts at L’Estaque from Fauvism to Cubism. In this piece Braque explores painting the village in more geometric ways and the brighter colors are much more subdued. The dark limbs of the trees frame the landscape, giving the appearance of dusk. Darker colors are more prominent throughout the painting and planar rooftops are evident, but this piece cannot truly be label cubist. L’Estaque is still painted in a way that lets the viewer embrace the village as mysterious and charming through the nonrepresentational colors.

Georges Braque, Road near L’Estaque, 1908

Oil on canvas, MoMA, 103.1943

In 1908, Braque switches his style to Cubism and becomes an artistic forerunner for the movement. Because of this new fracturing style, L’Estaque is portrayed as a geometric experience for the viewer. The road pushing diagonally across the painting is a recurring subject, but here it is painted in a completely new way. The painting displays the landscape as suddenly changing from plane to plane, distorting trees, hills and the road into cube-like formations, which would be difficult for someone to walk through. This painting also embraces the transition away from bright, nonrepresentational colors towards dark, richer colors in L’Estaque.

Georges Braque, Trees at L’Estaque, 1908, 

Oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection," no. 2.

Trees at L’Estaque, the central piece of the exhibition, is one of the last pieces Braque painted in L’Estaque. Hard lines and shifting points of view fracture the landscape into distorted yet recognizable shapes, as was normative for cubist artwork. The viewer is forced to question what they are looking at. No longer is L’Estaque a wild and colorful dream land, but a brooding, geometric nature scene. The loose brushwork and dark colors transform L’Estaque into a place of indecipherable, shifting shadows.

No comments:

Post a Comment