“Georges Braque. Dance of Forms” in the Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg

Georges Braque is a well-known stranger in Germany. He is remembered as a friend of Picasso and a co-founder of Cubism, but many art lovers only have vague ideas about his work. The fact that the last major Braque exhibition in Germany was more than thirty years ago fits this picture. Now you can rediscover Braque, who is one of the heroes of classical modernism in his home country France, with us. Under the title “Dance of Forms”, the Bucerius Kunst Forum is presenting eighty high-quality paintings and drawings from early Fauvist works to the dawn of Cubism to the elegiac landscapes that Braque painted in the years before his death in 1963.

At the beginning of the chronologically structured show there is a surprise. When looking at the two-dimensional landscape paintings painted in bright colors, the visitor thinks for a moment that they have come across a Matisse exhibition. The fact that Braque destroyed a number of works from this short creative phase in 1906 and 1907 is a matter of regret, given the magic of colors that they unfold.

The special relationship between Braques and Germany

It is rather the brown and gray tones of the following, Cubist phase up to the beginning of the First World War that are associated with the “typical” Braque. The artistic pioneering achievement that Braque achieved in these years can be clearly seen in the exhibits: They show the gradual departure of the central perspective and the geometrization of landscape forms up to the subjects of musicians and instruments, which Braque fragments and as facets of different, mutually shifted perspectives are recombined. It is these images – the “Still Life with a Violin” or the “Man with a Guitar” – that were popular among educated bourgeois audiences up into the seventies of the twentieth century as representatives of a moderate modernity between objectivity and abstraction. In the exhibition, beyond the art postcard format, its decisive quality becomes evident again: It is the close connection between imagery and musicality that goes beyond the mere motif, a visualization of rhythm through the staggered arrangement of split forms and bodies.

The artist painted the picture “With a rapid flapping of wings” between 1956 and 1961.


Image: Center Pompidou / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

The “billiard table” from 1944, a highlight of the exhibition, shows that the energy behind this imagery was not limited to the Cubist phase. The top view of a snapping pool table, which is angled into the picture, combined with the spear-shaped billiard sticks, conveys a surprisingly aggressive dynamic. The “metamorphic” works of the thirties offer surprises of a different kind, whose hybrid forms, alternating between object and living being, refer to surrealism, which as a movement had just passed its zenith. And again and again Braque shows himself in his pictures as a trained decorative painter who knows how to use wallpaper patterns and marbling effectively. The pencil drawings and gouaches that show the designs for the stage set and the costumes of a Parisian ballet have a completely different, airy, delicate charm.


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