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EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE IS REAL: PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Georges Braque
LE HACHOIR
Estimate
800,0001,200,000
LOT SOLD. 860,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
19

EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE IS REAL: PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Georges Braque
LE HACHOIR
Estimate
800,0001,200,000
LOT SOLD. 860,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

|
New York

Georges Braque
1882 - 1963
LE HACHOIR
Signed G Braque (lower left)
Oil on canvas
25 3/8 by 31 3/4 in.
64.5 by 80.5 cm
Painted in 1941.
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Provenance

Ludwig Charell, New York

George Cukor, Los Angeles (acquired from the above on May 28, 1948)

University of Southern California, Los Angeles (a gift from the above and sold: Sotheby's, London, June 26, 1984, lot 46)

Acquired at the above sale

Exhibited

Pasadena, Pasadena Art Museum, Georges Braque, 1960, no. 15, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Still Life and dated 1942)

Literature

Cahiers d'Art, Paris, 1940-44, illustrated p. 90 (titled Le Table aux biscuits and dated 1940)

Maeght Éditeur, Catalogue de l'oeuvre de Georges Braque, Peintures, 1936-1941, Paris, 1961, n.n., illustrated p. 93

Catalogue Note

A duo of pears, a pitcher, a platter, a glass, a meat cleaver, a white cloth—they perch, fall, sit back into and inhabit Georges Braque’s canvas Le Hachoir of 1941. Le Hachoir or "The Meatclever" is titled to refer directly to one of the central and defining elements of the still life composition, the cleaver which perches on the table just below the pitcher and platter of pears. Turning, like Picasso, to the still-life genre during the years of World War II, Braque produced some of his most dynamic and disquieting compositions at this time. Taking as its starting point the traditional, seemingly hermetic subject matter of everyday objects arranged on a table top and rendered in a reduced, earthly palette, Le Hachoir nevertheless richly points to the drama that was unfolding in the outside world. The objects are painted with a sense of elegance and poise, and the linear rhythm of the fluted pattern on the legs of the table and the glass adds a note that evokes classical antiquity, with its intrinsic sense of beauty and tranquility. Yet the composition is anything but calm. Seemingly fractured and painted at a logic-defying angle, the table’s surface appears to be tumbling towards the viewer. The image is rich with symbolism: while the white tablecloth calls to mind Cézanne’s celebrated still lifes, the precariously perched meat cleaver and the dark windows in the background are stark reminders of the horrors taking place beyond the walls of the artist’s studio.

From the electric Fauve canvases of his early career and the fracturing of form in the revolutionary breakthroughs of Cubism, to the overlapping, flattened planes of the return to order following the end of World War I, Braque would return to the theme of the still life throughout his long and productive career (see figs. 1 & 2). It was through the still-life genre that Braque continued to refine and reexamine the expressive as well as conceptual possibilities of oil painting, always creating innovative ways to represent common objects. It is precisely the malleability of these compositions, both real and illusory, that allowed Braque to approach his art with trademark rigor, and make paintings such as Le Hachoir so visually and intellectually rich. Isabelle Monod-Fontaine writes that Braque achieved with his still lifes an “inexhaustible poetic richness. The still life as a genre is raised to a new level of profundity and complexity, which has probably never been attained since” (I. Monod-Fontaine, Georges Braque: Order and Emotion (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Contemporary Art, Andros, 2003, p. 24).

By the time Braque painted Le Hachoir, Paris was suffering under German occupation during World War II. The artist had served in World War I, sustaining a serious injury which required extensive surgery and convalescences, at one point losing his vision entirely. From 1915 until 1917 he artistic production essentially ceased. The year prior to the creation of Le Hachoir, once more Braque was unable to work regularly. He and his wife were at their country home in Varengeville when the Nazis overran Paris and for several months they spent time in the south of France. Concerned that his studio would be violated, Braque eventually returned to Paris in late 1940, however with the occupying forces having established a headquarters across the street, he found it hard to work and his production stalled. By 1941, however, his artistic capacities were back in full swing, and Le Hachoir bears witness to a new outburst of creativity.

What Braque did not achieve when he suffered a head wound in 1915, at the height of Synthetic Cubism, he made up for in the complex still-life compositions painted in the early 1940s. Like Picasso, during the war years he sought refuge in painting, particularly in the genre of still-life. Braque abhorred violence and attempted to remain apolitical, though through his actions and behavior he became a figure of the resistance in Paris, quietly living in the southern part of the city near the Parc Montsouris. “Braque dug in for the duration," writes Alex Danchev, “Deep in his selfmost straits he found new resources. His battle pieces were still lifes and his landscapes interiors” (A. Danchev, Georges Braque, A Life, New York, 2005, p. 210).

Discussing a new dimension that Braque’s art acquired in the late 1930s, Edward Mullins wrote: "It was also becoming less literal in its presentation of material things. Braque’s world had always been one of objects, in particular objects close enough to touch. Henceforth, a metaphysical note was to sound increasingly loud in Braque’s painting; for the first time images appear which either have no material existence, or else they have become detached sufficiently from that material role to introduce ideas that dwell outside the physical boundaries of Braque’s theme... The introduction during the late '30s of this metaphysical element into Braque’s material world ranks as the second momentous innovation of his career (the first being his contribution to Cubism) and it paves the way for that series of noble and mysterious still lifes, in some respects the summit of Braque’s achievements, the Studio series" (E. Mullins, Braque, London, 1968, pp. 135-36).

The first owner of Le Hachoir was the noted film director George Cukor whose credits include The Philadelphia Story, A Star is Born and My Fair Lady, the latter of which won him the Academy Award for Best Director. Not only an award-winning director but also a famed Hollywood host, Cukor threw frequent parties at his home (see fig. 3), bringing together a veritable who’s who of the Hollywood A-List of the time. Le Hachoir remained in Cukor’s collection until 1963, when he donated the work to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The University in turn kept this canvas in their collection until 1984 when it was sold at auction to the present owner. 

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

|
New York