Lot 36
  • 36

Georges Braque

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Georges Braque
  • La Table grise
  • Signed G. Braque and dated 30 (lower left)
  • Oil and sand on canvas
  • 57 1/8 by 29 7/8 in.
  • 145 by 76 cm


Madeleine Helft, New York (acquired from the artist by at least 1948)

Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York (acquired from the above)

Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York (acquired from the above in 1955)

Private Collection (sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 2, 2010, lot 16)

Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman



Paris, Galerie Paul Rosenberg, 1930

Basel, Kunsthalle, Basel, G. Braque, 1933, no. 160, illustrated in the catalogue

Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Georges Braque, 1936, no. 54

New York, The Museum of Modern Art & The Cleveland Museum of Art, Georges Braque, 1948-49, no. 63

New York, Paul Rosenberg & Co, Braque, 1955, no. 5

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1958 (on loan)

Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Paintings from the Collection of Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1960

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1969 (on loan)

Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Braque: The Great Years, 1972


Carl Einstein, Georges Braque, XXe Siècle, Paris, 1934, illustrated pl. LXXXI

Jean Paulhan, Braque par le Patron, Geneva, 1947, illustrated p. 89

Henry Hope, Georges Braque, New York, 1949, illustrated p. 116.

Art International, IV-8, 1960, illustrated p. 50

Nicole S. Mangin, Catalogue de l'Oeuvre de Georges Braque: Peintures 1928 – 1935, Paris, 1962, illustrated pl. 47 and in color

Catalogue Note

The still-life was a theme to which Braque returned consistently throughout his long and productive career.  In every phase, beginning with the Fauve period and culminating in the majestic interiors of his last years, Braque found the arrangement of a limited number of objects on a table-top or in an interior to be the most appropriate subject for his investigations of the formal and tactile qualities of painting.  In the decades following the invention of Cubism, Braque continued to refine and re-examine the expressive possibilities of his still lifes, always creating innovative ways to represent common objects.   

Completed in 1930 in the midst of the Surrealist movement, this dynamic still-life epitomizes the 'transparent' aesthetic that would define Braque's work for the next decade. Elements of the composition overlap with varying degrees of transparency, creating an illusion of recession and depth.  The dimensionality of the picture is further enhanced by Braque's inventive choice of media.  He creates a rich topography across the surface of the canvas by mixing his oil paint with sand, adding texture and dimensionality throughout the composition.  His limited palette of gray, red-brown and umber strategically focuses the eye towards the center of the canvas, where the bright yellow, green and red arrangement on the table top predominate.  Braque's experiments with the transparency of form would have a profound effect on the work of his fellow Surrealists painters, most notably in Picasso's still lifes painted only a few months later. 

John Golding has written the following about Braque's works of this period, pointing out the artist's indebtedness to the paintings of Paul Cézanne:  "The 1930s witnessed some of the most magnificently full and decorative still lifes ever produced by Braque — or, indeed, by any artist in the twentieth century.  Although no direct influence of Cézanne is evident in Braque's works from this period, their closest parallel is to be found in Cézanne's own late still lifes, which are characterized by their great arching, swinging, centrifugal rhythms...Braque was now extending his coloristic range beyond that of anything he had produced since his early Fauve period.  He incorporates whole spectrums of reds, roses, and yellows, and the gamut of tonal variety in the pale fawns and up into the siennas and browns becomes ever richer.  The works of the mid-1930s are also enriched by the liberal use of curves, sometimes rendered in a linear fashion and played off against angular pictorial elements to create new and complex spatial effects, and above all the 'metamorphic confusion' (the term is his own) for which Braque was now searching.  Solid forms such as fruit dishes and musical instruments deliquesce, while softer objects (napkins, drapery, fruit) become hard and unyielding" (John Golding, Cézanne and Beyond, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009, p. 266). 

La Table grise was exhibited at the Parisian gallery of Braque's dealer Paul Rosenberg not long after it was completed.  It was later acquired by Nelson Rockefeller, the governor of New York State (1959-1973), Vice President of the United States (1974-1977) and president and trustee of the Museum of Modern Art.   Rockefeller's extensive collection of mid-century Modern art included works by Picasso, Braque, Lipchitz, Matisse and Miró, many of which were donated to MoMA.  The present painting was probably one of the many works of art that Rockefeller had on display at his family home Kykuit, a sprawling estate overlooking the Hudson River that functioned as a gallery and sculpture garden for his expansive collection.