In 1906, Braque too would travel to the South of France, but he chose instead the rich terrain of the Provençal countryside as opposed to the port towns. In the present work, which was painted in the summer of 1907, Braque depicts the rolling hills near La Ciotat and L'Estaque—an area that would figure prominently in his subsequent Cubist production. Maison sur la colline evokes the light and color that fascinated Braque in the south of France and which lent itself to the magisterial landscape of the hills which sprung up from the sea. Using hues of red, purple, blue, green and yellow Braque builds the vertiginous landscape topped with a red-roofed house and frames the composition with the bows of a shading tree above where he set up his easel. The geometric concerns of Cézanne which would, in turn, lead Braque to his explosive discovery of Cubism, are foreshadowed in this composition.
Remembering this period of his career, Braque later told Jacques Lassaigne, the noted art critic, art historian and author: “I can say that the first pictures in L’Estaque were conceived before I set out. I set myself, nevertheless, to submit them to the influences of the light, of the atmosphere, and to the effect of the rain which enlivened the colors” (quoted in Georges Braque, Rétrospective (exhibition catalogue), Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, 1994, p. 42).
Like most of the Fauve painters, Braque painted en plein air. He frequently set up his easel alongside Émile-Othon Friesz, a fellow artist and compatriot who had traveled to L'Estaque with him from Le Havre. The mild Mediterranean climate allowed the artists to paint outdoors throughout the fall and winter months—a factor that had also appealed to Cézanne, whose paintings of L'Estaque from the 1880s are some of his most celebrated landscapes (see fig. 3). Braque himself would draw further inspiration from Cézanne in the years that immediately followed, incorporating structure and tone into his earliest cubist paintings (see fig. 4)
Braque later commented about his Fauve experience of 1906 and 1907: “For me Fauvism was a momentary adventure in which I became involved because I was young… I was freed from the studios, only twenty-four, and full of enthusiasm, I moved toward what for me represented novelty and joy, toward Fauvism. It was in the South of France that I first felt truly elated. Just think, I had only recently left the dark, dismal Paris studios where they still painted with pitch! What a joyful revelation I had there!” (quoted in G. Diehl, The Fauves, New York, 1975, p. 132).
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