Man with a Guitar

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Georges Braque

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Man with a Guitar

Georges Braque. Man with a Guitar. Céret, summer 1911-early 1912. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4 x 31 7/8" (116.2 x 80.9 cm). Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Audio Program excerpt

MoMA Audio: Collection

2008

Curator Emeritus, John Elderfield: We know that the title of the movement, Cubism, owes to a quip that Matisse made in 1908 when he saw some landscapes which Braque had submitted to an exhibition and referred to these as having little cubes in them. But certainly by 1911, the date of this picture, the aim was to analyze the volume of figures into a succession of planesthat is flat surfacesvisible to the eye.

So, what are we looking at here? The title tells us that its a man with a guitar. Braque actually helps you by giving certain clues. In the center of the picture, little lines indicate where the guitar is, and then, a big diagonal, running from the right hand side down to the bottom left corner. Once you lock onto that you then can see the actual shape of the figure. To the left of the picture that broad diagonal is the right arm bending in to touch the guitar. And the general pyramidal shape has to end at the top with the figure's face.

You really have this sense of reality deforming, reforming as your eyes move across the painting, that something which looks like shading could also be color, something which seems to be curved forward could be curved back, you know? And this is one of the great, great pleasures of Cubist painting, that they are really thrilling fields for visual investigation.