In contrast to Braque’s early Cubist still lifes, the present work demonstrates the austerities of life in occupied Paris: the cherries, lemons, glass, sauce boat, potato and fork are sparsely scattered across the table top, illustrating wartime scarcity. Although Braque famously disclaimed all symbolic interpretations of his work, the spatial concerns of his still life are still at the mercy of circumstance, and La Saucière contemplatively praises man’s ability to endure the daily tribulations of food rationing and shortage during the war. Such scarcity of materials allowed Braque to explore the space between objects, a subject that had preoccupied him throughout his career.
In the artist’s own words, ‘Objects! For me there are no such things! What counts are relationships. They are infinite […] People are incredible! They say to me: "You have painted this tin of tobacco and this cup." And what is between the two? [...] It is more important. I started by painting a space and then by furnishing it. The object is a dead thing. It only comes alive when it is activated. That is what poetry is, don’t you see? Find the common ground between things. "A swallow pierces the sky like a dagger." The swallow was not what counted. There were thousands in the sky. But it becomes a dagger! You have to subject things to change, to stop living on automatic’ quoted in Nadine Pouillon & Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, Braque, Œuvres de Georges Braque (1882-1963), Musée Nationale d'Art Moderne Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1982, p. 150).
Exploring the poetics of the space between, Braque developed a pictorial language of forms which interrogated the object’s identity through sinuous and cursive lines, allowing objects to simultaneously and rhythmically dissolve and float across solid surfaces: '…it seems to me just as difficult to paint the spaces between as the things themselves. The space between seems to be as essential an element as what they call the object. The subject matter consists precisely of the relationship between these objects and between the object and the intervening spaces. How can I say what the picture is of when relationships are always things that change? [...] What counts is this transformation’ (ibid, pp. 150-154).
Boasting a prestigious provenance, having passed through the hands of gallery owner Alfred Poyet and New York art dealer Sam Salz, La Saucière is a masterful example of Braque’s wartime still-lifes, which typifies the artist’s desire to bring to life mundane objects into a spectacular rendering of material that interrogates the two-dimensional surface of painting into a dynamic play on space and fields of vision. This work also previously belonged to Alexander & Elisabeth Lewyt whose exceptional taste, ingenuity and creativity brought about one of the most celebrated collections of late 19th and early 20th century European art. Alexander Lewyt was a visionary, inventor and entrepreneur who famously invented the clip-on bow-tie and his own eponymous vacuum cleaner. Together with his wife Elisabeth, Alexander shared a passion for art, collecting paintings by Cézanne, Degas, Bonnard, Renoir, and most famously The Man with the Axe by Paul Gauguin. The philanthropic couple would also donate many paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
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