Completed in 1927 in the midst of the Surrealist movement, this dynamic still life shares textural qualities with earlier Cubist canvases as well as coeval works by Max Ernst and others (see fig. 1), and here Braque imbues the entire surface with a rich topography by mixing his oil paint with sand. His limited palette of green, red-brown and umber strategically focuses the eye towards the center of the canvas, where the bright yellow, green and red elements appear to have electric intensity.
Instruments and sheet music first appeared in Braque’s works during his pivotal early Cubist years. They would recur in still lifes throughout the following decades. Braque himself was musical, classically trained in the violin, flute, and even the accordion. “He is reported to have been a good musician, a singer with a pleasant voice, and an accomplished, enthusiastic dancer…. Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, remembered that he boasted of being able to ‘play Beethoven symphonies on the accordion” (K. Wilkin, Georges Braque, New York, 1991, p. 8). Several of his close friends, including Erik Satie and Georges Auric, were prominent composers; Claude Debussy, whose sheet music is visible in Le Duo, now at the Centre Georges Pompidou, was a great admirer of Braque and his work while Braque in turn paid homage to his favorite composer, Bach, in several paintings (see fig. 2).
While Braque's work stylistically evolved from his cubist roots, the interplay of his medium and its support, as well as the textural effects created and conveyed by their mixture, remained paramount in the artist's oeuvre. His superlative use of faux-bois technique, first put forward with printed wallpaper in 1912 (see fig. 3), incorporated elements of visual manipulation into his paintings and works on paper. While collage suited some of these early compositions, Braque used a variety of oils to mimic this effect in his canvases, seen in Nature morte (à la mandoline) in the simulation of wood grain on the table top.
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