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Still Life on a Mantelpiece

Georges Braque (French, 1882–1963). Still Life on a Mantelpiece, ca. 1923. Oil and sand on canvas, 25 1/2 x 30 inches (64.8 x 76.2 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1941 (RCA1941:22). © Estate of Georges Braque / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

© Estate of Georges Braque / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

© Estate of Georges Braque / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

© Estate of Georges Braque / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

Georges Braque

French, 1882-1963

Still Life on a Mantelpiece, ca. 1923

oil and sand on canvas

support: 25 1/2 x 30 inches (64.77 x 76.2 cm); overall: 28 1/2 x 33 1/4 x 3 inches (72.39 x 84.45 x 7.62 cm)

Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1941

RCA1941:22

Currently On View

More Details

Inscriptions

signature, undated / lower right / G Braque

Provenance

Valentine Gallery;
to collection Mary Quinn Sullivan, by 1934;
sold at auction at Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, sale no. 150, December 7, 1939 [catalogue no. 182];
Valentine Gallery;
sold to the Albright Art Gallery, December 31, 1941

Class

Paintings (visual works)

Work Type

Oil painting (visual work)

This information may change due to ongoing research. Glossary of Terms

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Verbal Description Audio

Georges Braque

Still Life on a Mantelpiece

Oil and sand on canvas, made circa 1923

This painting is almost two feet tall by almost three feet wide and has a horizontal orientation. This is an image of a collection of objects on a stone structure built to support a fireplace that is distorted through a non-traditional use of perspective. The predominant colors are pale tan, chocolate brown, steel grey, pea green, and white. This description will focus on the objects, moving next to the mantelpiece and lastly, the background.

The largest object is a guitar on its side with the neck, painted with a single solid chocolate brown rectangle on the right side of the painting. Tuning pegs are indicated by a simple black wavy horizontal form that runs along the top of this rectangle. A similar outline of black filled in with brown exists on the bottom of the same rectangle. To the left of the guitar is a flat steel grey octagon. The left side of it is covered by a water pitcher of slightly darker grey whose wide mouth is dramatically slanted toward the viewer. The entire right half of the pitcher is painted chocolate brown. At the bottom right edge of the pitcher two pale tan circles that both have touches of green in opposite corners. Both are defined with a black line which continues from the top down the very center and stops before the bottom indicating a soft rounded bumps on each. The two circles cover the bottom of the flat octagon and the bottom edge of the guitar. Just beneath this and moving to the right is a solid black shape that mimics the body of the guitar which could indicate a shadow. From the left of the canvas and finishing on the right edge is a stone grey rectangle speckled with unorganized dots of black white and marbled lines of dark grey. This passes directly underneath the objects and suggests the top of the mantelpiece slanted toward the viewer. Just inside the right bottom edge of the mantelpiece top in a continuation of the same texture and color which indicates the right edge of the mantelpiece. A thin black line exists on top of the speckled grey showing a curled edge followed by thin curved vertical indents suggesting the top corner of an ornately carved column. Two strips of white line the interior space of a fireplace as it moves to the left of the painting. The majority of the fireplace is cropped out of view.

The background fills the space behind and above the objects. It is comprised of flat spaces of various color defined by straight geometric lines, creating a look of having multiple planes. There is one space of color which sits directly above the guitar that is curved. It is the same shade of white used in the bottom left hand corner of the painting that defined the interior corner of the fireplace. Behind the white is a section of mottled emerald green and black. Spaces of pea green are on both left and right sides below smaller spaces of brick red. A consistent horizontal thin strip of black runs from left to right and frames the right top hand corner. In the bottom left the inscription GBraque can be seen.

Through unusual combinations of color, line, and texture, Georges Braque pushed the boundaries of representing objects from various perspectives. While he is best known for his Cubist collaborations with Pablo Picasso, Braque continued to create art long after his creative relationship with Picasso ended. Unlike his former partner, however, Braque often preferred the quiet of his studio to burning bright in the world of art. The subject of the still life on a mantelpiece repeatedly piqued his interest, and from 1919 to 1926, Braque made at least six studies of this theme. He was drawn to its spatial tension and the way in which it naturally compresses objects on a small surface. Still Life on a Mantelpiece is the second horizontally oriented work in the series. Here, there exists a harmonious balance between the mantel and the objects, and the composition and the viewer. Braque further played with space by grouping all of the components asymmetrically on the far right of the ledge; however, they appear disproportionately large in scale, as if they are about to fall.

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