The still life was a theme to which Braque returned consistently throughout his long 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 tabletop 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: “You see, I have made a great discovery. I no longer believe in anything. Objects don’t exist for me except in so far as a rapport exists between them or between them and myself. When one obtains that sense of peace, which makes everything possible and right. Life then becomes a perpetual revelation. That is true poetry” (quoted in John Golding, Braque, The Late Works (exhibition catalogue), The Menil Collection, Houston, 1997, p. 10).
World Wars I and II would have great impact on Braque’s output. The paintings from the 1940s share with his 1920s pictures a return to naturalism; however, the tone of these later pictures stands in stark contrast to the restrained splendor of the earlier ones. During the Nazi Occupation, Braque was forced to flee in 1940 to the Limoges region and later to the Pyrenees. When he returned to Paris he withdrew to his studio and lived in isolation through the remainder of the war. He was remarkably productive during this period, though his resulting output is striking in its austerity and its focus on basic foods, for example loaves of bread or bowls of fruit, which underscore the severe deprivation he experienced.
In 1943, the year the present work was painted, Braque publicly exhibited new works in occupied Paris for the first time since the outbreak of the war, and was honored with a special room at the Salon d’Automne. Braque considered the artist to be removed from the political world, which is likely one of the reasons he was selected as a featured artist. Karen Butler argues that “it is precisely their insistent lack of political engagement that one can locate the historical specificity of Braque’s still-life paintings. They are about the war precisely by not being about the war, by creating a kind of parallel universe that is nonetheless reliant on an imagined and tactile experience of space” (Karen K. Butler, “The Known and Unknown Worlds,” in Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life 1928-1945 (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., & Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, p. 29).