Georges Braque was born in 1882 in Argenteuil, France and grew up in the coastal city of Le Havre. His father and grandfather were both house painters and Georges studied to do the same, also taking night classes at the École Supérieure des Arts in Le Havre. In 1899, he moved to Paris and continued his studies at the Académie Humbert until 1904.
Braque painted his early works in an Impressionist style until viewing a 1905 exhibition of Fauvist works. His works after this were more subdued Fauvist pieces, beginning a slow evolution as he was exposed to more artistic trends and styles through various gallery shows. In 1906, he traveled to L’Estaque, Antwerp, and back to Le Havre to paint.
In 1907, Braque’s career took a major turn. After exhibiting his Fauvist works at the Salon des Indépendants, he visited the art studio of Pablo Picasso to see his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. This encounter led to a friendship and collaboration that would have major impacts on the course of art history. Combining their mutual interest in showing multiple perspectives and monochromatic color, the two began developing Cubism in 1908.
Braque is often overshadowed by Picasso, but the two worked together so closely that their early Cubist works are often indistinguishable. In 1912, they began to incorporate collage into their works, experimenting with papier collé (pasted paper). These works featured geometric shapes, musical instruments, bowls of fruit, or furniture. All of these elements of Cubism – but particularly their combination of drawing or painting with the addition of collage – marked a break with prior art historical trends and would have a major impact on later generations of artists.
The collaboration between Picasso and Braque ended in 1914, as Braque joined the French army in the First World War. In 1915, he suffered a severe head injury and required a long period of recovery, for which he moved back to the Normandy coast. He resumed painting in a Cubist style, but featuring human figures and slightly brighter colors. In 1917, while still recuperating, he began a friendship with painter Juan Gris.
Where Picasso experimented with various artistic styles, Braque remained a Cubist for much of his career. He remained dedicated to the idea of depicting multiple perspectives at once. In his late career, beginning around 1929, he returned to landscape painting. In the late 1930s, he began his Vanitas series, which explored themes of death and suffering. His final series, Atelier, showed his inner thoughts on objects around his studio. In his final years, he repeatedly painted birds, a symbolic image as well as a depiction of his obsession with movement.
Georges Braque died in Paris in 1963 at the age of 81. He is remembered as a creator of Cubism. His first retrospective took place in Basel, Switzerland in 1933. From then until now, his place in art history has been solidified and his works hang in most of the major art museums around the world.
Although his poor health in his final years prevented him from carrying out large scale commissions, such as his 1954 stained-glass windows for the church of Varengeville, where he is now buried, he continued to paint and to explore other mediums including lithography and jewelry.