Painting Review: Georges Braque – Yellow Seacoast

Following on from my Assignment 5 prep looking at a Cubist painting by Georges Braque, here I’m going to look at a Fauvist painting also by Braque – Yellow Seacoast also known as Boats on the Beach, L’Estaque. Braque came Fauvism late and left early but for a time was fully engaged. I picked this Fauve painting for annotation over the more obvious choices of Matisse or Derain because I thought it would be more interesting to compare two paintings of the same artist from the two (opposing) avant-garde styles of that period. I specifically picked this one because it seemed like this was when Braque was at his most Fauvist, you can tell that by the time he painted The Large Trees, L’Estaque, that he’s starting to waver.

I tried to keep in mind Terry Smith’s four ways of looking as per assignment 3 feedback. Unfortunately, unlike the Cubist painting, I could not actually visit this one in person so I has to analyse an online reproduction. They vary so much too, here are just two of the ‘versions’ of reproductions I could see online. I have choose to use the one from the official website where the painting resides (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) as (hopefully) this should be the most faithful.

Boats on the Beach
Georges Braque (France, 1882-1963)
France, 1906
Paintings
Oil on canvas
19 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. (49.53 x 69.85 cm) Frame: 27 × 31 × 4 in. (68.58 × 78.74 × 10.16 cm)
Gift of Anatole Litvak (53.55.1)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© 2015 Georges Braque / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Again, I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review. The grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format, but I keep the comparison grid that my tutor liked on the previous assignment feedback.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The boat in the foreground, then the boats behind in the middle ground, then the sky.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? My eyes strayed out of the picture at the sky and then back in on the reflection on the water and the boats on the right.
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? The little town in the background looks like it has a smoking chimney stack in it.
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? That boat at the front
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.

Colour:

    1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A very wide colour palate which is not all realistic but conveys an atmosphere of joy.
    2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? Yes, seemingly everywhere
    3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? It’s mostly balanced but perhaps a bit on the warm side or that could be an optical illusion of the colours.
    4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? All the colours are bright.
    5. In what way is dark and light colour used? The only dark colours really are blues, greens and purples. The purples form the shadows and the colour of the distant hills, the blue is in the water is quite dark, and in the dark blue contours and there are some darker greens as shadowy bits in the boats and in the background.

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? Not as wide as it first looks, there’s no blacks or whites

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out areas of interest, the boats on the water, the lands edge and the boats masts against the dramatic sky

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are also used to model three-dimensional forms and boundaries such as where the water meets the land

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? The distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition and model shadows without using dark and light tints.

Medium:

  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? Like the Cubist work, the paint has been applied smoothly in some places and in little dabbing strokes in others. Unlike the Cubist work, here the brush strokes are much looser. Its difficult to tell from the small online reproduction anything about the texture or thickness of the application.
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It’s not really the medium that is used unconventionally but the colours.
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? The mood is a joyous reflection of nature
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? not especially

need this large gap because the table runs into the side of the blog

 

Composition:

Representation of depth Technique: Clarinet & Bottle of Rum Effect: Clarinet & Bottle of Rum Technique: Yellow Seacoast Effect: Yellow Seacoast
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, but they dont overlap in a traditional sense. Its a bit confusing what object is what. Y The boat in the foreground overlaps the water, the masts of the background boats are  overlapping the town on the horizon and the pontoon
(b) diminishing scale N As far as I can tell there is no diminishing scale Y  The painting has tradition one point perspective with large close boats in the foreground and smaller boats in the background
(c) atmospheric perspective N The space behind is a limited space of the mantelpiece so even if this was painted traditionally this would not have atmospheric perspective Maybe Its hard to tell if the colour purplish in the background hills is to represent atmospheric perpective of just because he wanted them purple
(d) vertical placement Y Yes, you can read the canvas from the bottom up to the bottle at the top Y  The boats in the background are above the ones in the forground
(e) linear perspective Y there is linear perspective on one or two of the view points which are not immediately obvious Y  You can tell by the boat in the forground and the one just behind it, there might as well be drawn on  guide lines
(f) modelling Y there is a slight modelling on some aspects for example the curl of something in detail 1 picture above Y Yes but very slight. There is slight modelling on the boats using colours

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal):  There are implied diagonal lines as you look up the beach from the stern of the boat in the foreground. From there your eye zigzags across the painting along the towns horizontal line, up the slope of the hills to be carried across by the texture in the sky. Several points in this visual zigzag are broken by ship masts pointing into the sky or from the edge of the sky, down the masts into their reflections on the water and across the other colourful water reflection lines.

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness.  True to Fauvist style many of the main objects (such as the boats and waters edge) are outlined in thick contour lines. This has the effect of breaking the colours reactions to each other by circling in dark blue. Other elements are not outlined, allowing the colours to react against each other, for example in the purple of the hills and the red of the sky.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’

It looks like he’s expeimenting with colour theory. Many places that I’ve read that the fauves and the expressionists were similar but I don’t think so at all. Superficially maybe, they both use lots of bright direct colours in their work, not necessarily naturalistic either. They also use similar subject matter. But the expressionists seem to be full of anger, doom and gloom. Their colours are used to spit in your eye. The colours in this painting are clearly coming from a different place.

Context & Meaning:

much of my Fauve background reading notes I’ve left in this blog post

https://westernarthistorybysuzy.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/cubism-and-fauvism-research-summary/

The name of The Fauves is from the French Les Fauves, wild beasts, this was a derogatory term coined from the first Exhibition where these bright colourful canvases were hung all together in one room with a Henri Rousseau and more traditional sculpture for maximum contrast. Colour was freed from descriptive representation and used to represent emotions. Braque came to Fauvism late and left early to move towards a more geometric look before fully developing Cubism with Picasso.

Fauvism’s hallmark was amplifying colours and making them richer than they are in real life. A pale red leaf might become a fiery red colour in a Fauvist painting, whilst a splash of watery yellow sunset on the sea would become a strong, bold yellow. (Georgesbraque.net, 2017)

André Derain, Landscape of the Midi, oil on canvas, 1906, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The choppy dabbing brushstrokes are reminiscent of Van Gogh, or some contemporary work by André Derain but the space on the picture plain is less flat than Derain’s work (eg Landscape of the Midi, 1906)

 

 

 

‘The principles of Fauvism may be listed briefly as follows: construction of space with colour, purity and simplification of technique, economy of means’. (Ferrier, 1995)

Braque had plenty of opportunities to paint boats and their masts up on the sky when he lived in Antwerp in 1906 with Friesz eg Le Mat – Le Port d’Anvers, 1906. As with those paintings, here he paints across the water, with no figures and a sense of separateness from the local town although the bright Mediterranean light would have been a much intense than the grey atmosphere of Antwerp.

The composition follows the Impressionists basis for framing the landscape in a 1:2 sky/land ratio, and weighted in the lower left corner. Due to social and economic changes in French tourist towns between the visits from the Impressionists and the Fauves, the Fauves were more likely to make their landscapes nonspecific and idealistic.

Braque painted the same scene over and again until he’d worked out the nuances of the water, wood and rock. Eg Paysage a L’Estaque  (landscape at L’Estaque), 1906 and Le Port de L’Estaque (the port of L’Estaque) 1906, Fridart Foundation. They evoke a more daytime feeling that this one which seems like it might be painted at sunrise or sunset when you see the three together you can see more of the colours are representational after all. Painting L’Estaque was a rite of passage for the Normans, allowing them into the fauve circles.

Georges Braque – Paysage a L’Estaque (landscape at L’Estaque), autumn 1906, Oil on Canvas, 49.9x 61cm, Private collection
Georges Braque – Le Port de L’Estaque (the port of L’Estaque) autumn 1906, Oil on Canvas,, 50×61 cm, Fridart Foundation

Dufy, Braque & Friesz all came from Le Havre, in Normandy. Dubbed The Fauves Havrais, they have a slightly different take than the more Southern Fauves.  Friesz & Dufy had been taught by the same local art teacher, Charles Lhuillier of Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Braque his successor. At different times they all received a grant to go to Paris. Also at different times they all entered the studio of Leon Bonnat at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Braque initially studied art at night school and had an apprenticeship with House painter Laberthe. He did military service 1901-2, then off to Academie Humbert, Paris. All three artist spent some time together in the studio of Bonnat in 1903, having an impressionistic style in muted colours.

The Fauve landscape book has a fascinating timeline featuring all the fauves, I picked out the Braque bits:

Start of 1904  – Braque studying in Paris and living at 48 rue d’Orsel.

Summer 1904  – he holidays in Brittany and Normandy. Spends time in Le Pouldu near pont-aven where Gauguin painted.

Summer 1905  – he stays with sculptor Manolo (Manuel Martinez Hugue) & the critic Maurice Raynal in Honfleur and Le Havre. According to note 52 (G. Habasque, Les Soirees de Paris, 1954, p37), (Freeman, J, 1990) he acquired a Gabon mask from a sailor.

1906 June – September – Braque and Friesz stay in Antwerp painting the harbour.

Mid-september to Oct 1906 – He’s back in Paris after staying with friesz in nearby Durtal at painter Alexis Axilette’s home.

October – Nov 1906 Fourth Salon d’Automne exhibition features many Fauve works (not braque yet thou)

October 1906 Cezanne died

October – February 1906/7 – Braque stays in L’Estaque at the Hotel Maurin. Starts painting in Fauve style.

Nov – Dec 1906 – Derain back in L’Estaque and writing to Vlaminck notes that Braque, Friesz, Girieud are there and most of the artists from the Salon des Independants are in the region. Matisse spends 8 days there on his was to Collioure.

1907 Mar – april – Matisse is on the hanging committee of the 23rd Salon des independents. Braque exhibits & sells six paintings including those made at L’Estaque. 5 bought by Uhde and 1 by Kahnweiler. Vauxcelles describes the fauve movement as dangerous (Freeman, J, 1990) p101

1907 spring – After possibly travelling to Le Havre to prepare for the Cercle de l’Art Moderne exhibition that is open in early June, Braque and Friesz go to the south of France. Derain convinces Picasso to visit the ethnographic museum at the Palais de Trocadero. (Freeman, J, 1990) p101

1907 April – Braque meets Kahnweiler, who’d already met Picasso.

1907 may-early September – Braque and friesz in La Ciotat

1907 early june – Braque exhibits two in 2nd exhibition of the Cercle de l’Art Moderne along with other fauves.

1907 summer – Kahnweiler buying many paintings from the fauves including braque.

1907 July – Braque & Friesz stay at the Hotel Cendrillion, Cassis, and the visit Derain (note 190: 9/7/1907 postcard from Friesz to Druet)

1907 July/Aug – Braque & Friesz at La Ciotat and Matisse visits on his way to Italy.

1907 late August – Braque in l’Estaque, sends his Salon submission recommendations to Kahnweiler

1907 September – Braque and Friesz return to Paris. Braque sees Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon with Apollinaire (notes 199, 200: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 346-47) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1907 Autumn – Matisse exchanges paintings with Picasso. ‘Mercure de france publishes Cezanne’s correspondence with Bernard, which serves as the clearest statement published to date of cezanne’s ideas about composition and form’ (Freeman, J, 1990) p106

1907 Nov – ‘Braque goes to l’Estaque, following the Cezanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne’ (note 206:  Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 347), (Freeman, J, 1990) p106

1907 Oct – 5th Salon d’Automne. Braque only one painting. Matisse and Marquetry fauves on the jury.

1907 Nov-Dec – Matisse and Derain maybe see Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

1907 Dec – Braque begins to pain Nu (completed in June 1908)

1908 February – Braque and Picasso make drawings of deaf female model, (Freeman, J, 1990) p109

1908 March – May – 24th Salon des Independants. Braque shows 5. ‘In his review Apollinaire says that Braque’s work is the most original effort of the Salon’ p110 ( note 218: Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘Les Salon des Independants’ Les Revue des lettres et des arts, May 1, 1908) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 April – may – Braque shows 5 in Salon de la Toison d’Or, Moscow

1908 April – Burgess and Inez Haynes Irwin visit Braque’s Parisian studio (note 222: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 350) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 after May 2nd – Braque goes to help organise Cercle de l’Art Moderne in Le Havre

1908 Mid may – Braque stays for a 3rd visit in L’Estaque, this time at Hotel Maurin.

1908 June – Braque shows 2 in Cercle de l’Art Moderne exhibition

1908 summer – Braque joined in l’Estaque by Dufy. He possibly visited Derain in Martigues

1908 September – Matisse sees Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon according to Gertrude Stein (note 237: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 354-441) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 October – Nov – 6th Salon d’Automne. Matisse has his own section which gets positive reviews from the critics (note 239: Louis Vauxcelles, ‘Les Salon d’Automne’, Gil Blas, Sept 30,1908), (Freeman, J, 1990). Matisse and Marquet on the jury. 6 pictures by braque rejected, Marquet saved one. Braque removed himself entirely to show later that November at Kahnweilers gallery. It was his first one man show. 27 works 1906-8 with catalogue text by Apollinaire. Vauxcelles repeats Matisse cube observations in his review.

1908 Nov – Picasso hosts a banquet for Rousseau. Apollinaire, Braque, Friesz, Marie Laurencin Andre Salmon Gertrude Stein + others also attended.

1908 Late Nov – Braque in Le Havre

1908/9 Dec/jan – Braque shows six in group exhibition Gallerie Notre-Dame-Des-Champs.

1908 December – Matisse published notes of a painter

See the final annotation here.

References:

Cooper, D. (1972) Braque: The Great Years. The Art Institute of Chicago

Freeman, J. [et al.]. (1990) The Fauve Landscape. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Ferrier, J. (1995). The Fauves. Paris: Terrail.

Georgesbraque.net. (2017). Yellow Seacoast by Georges Braque. [online] Available at: http://www.georgesbraque.net/yellow-seacoast/ [Accessed 27 Jul. 2017].

Harrison, C. & Wood, P. (2003). Art in theory 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas. (New ed). Blackwell Publishers.

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

The Museum of Modern Art. (2017). Georges Braque. The Large Trees. L’Estaque 1906-07 | MoMA. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/78668 [Accessed 27 Jul. 2017].