Georges Braque - Le moulin à café
Le moulin à café
Oil and sand on canvas, relined 87.6 x 106.7 cm Framed. Signed 'G. Braque' in light brown in the depiction lower left. - In fine condition.
“Throughout my life I have been particularly drawn to the embodiment of this new space which I felt” (Georges Braque cited in: exhib. cat. Georges Braque, Haus der Kunst München 1963, p. 14). The still life is a central form of representation for Georges Braque. In pursuit of visual experience, his paintings lead us into the salon, kitchen, dining room and studio: above all, in his late work he is able to create variations on the expressive possibilities of this genre with particular intensity. He experiments with tonality and form, constantly developing new networks of relationships between volumes and surfaces, light and dark, soft and hard lines. As a testament to Braque's increasingly fantastical approach to the world, “Le moulin à café” is an outstanding example of the extraordinary quality of this later body of work.
Braque's still lifes adhere to neither a rigid compositional concept nor a clearly interpretable iconography. Thus the combination of objects on the table at his Varengeville studio in the present work (see exhib. cat. The Avant Garde of France: The 1940's and 1950's, Nassau County Museum 1994, p. 13) may seem astonishing, their inner connection initially difficult to grasp: on the table, next to the coffee grinder providing the work's title, he has an onion and a fish enter into a dialogue with one another in a surreal-fantastic manner. Mundane objects in themselves, they nonetheless become charged with a peculiar atmosphere in the work. That same year, for example, in his “Les poissons noirs” from the collection of the Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou (see comparative illus.), he created an emblematic still life whose disturbing depiction of two black fish was interpreted by the French poet Pierre Reverdy as a subconscious motif (see Bernhard Zurcher, Georges Braque, Life and Work, New York 1988, p. 174).
Beyond the depicted objects, the underlying enigmatic atmosphere of “Le moulin à café” develops not least out of the objects' complex network of interconnections with one another. Viewers find themselves involuntarily confronted with the question of the relationships between the things and the spaces between them. By eluding conclusive interpretation, they help to provide the work with a subtle power to resist. In the case of our still life the effect achieved through this concept becomes all the more pressing when we recall that the work was created in occupied France. At times this context can also be considered in relation to Braque's subdued palette.
In addition to the historical context it is particularly the application of the paint - with sand used to establish fine accents - and the subtly layered pictorial space that identify our work as an important representative of Braque's painting in the early 1940s. This representative painting had already arrived in the collection of the American publisher and art dealer Lee A. Ault (1915-1996) at the beginning of the 1950s by way of Aimé Maeght, and it would remain there until it returned to Europe in 1996. A sequence of photos of Ault's home in New Canaan, Connecticut, published in Vogue in 1956, demonstrates the prominent position it already occupied in Ault's art collection at that time (see comparative illus.).
For this lot, special conditions are applicable (legend "D" according to the conditions of sale).
List of works
Maeght Catalogue de L'Oeuvre de Georges Braque, Peintures 1942-1947, n.pag., n. no., with illus.
Aimé Maeght, Paris; M. Knoedler & Co., Inc. (acquired from A. Maeght 1950); Mr. and Mrs. Lee A. Ault, New York (1951); Christie's New York 1996, Impressionist and Modern Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture (Part I), November 13th, 1996, lot 58 ("Property from the Estate of Lee A. Ault"); Klaus J. Jacobs Collection, Zurich
Christian Zervos (ed.), Cahiers d'art: peinture, sculpture, architecture, musique, Paris 1940-1944, Vol. 15/19, Paris (with a text by Jean Paulhan concerning Braque), p. 101 with full-page illus. ("Moulin à café et poisson, 1942"); Stanislas Fumet (Introduction), Braque (Couleurs des Maitres), Paris 1945, with full-page colour illus., plate I; Derrière Le Miroir, G. Braque, Juin 1947, Galerie Maeght, Paris 1947 (with a text by René Char), Peintures no. 21; Maurice Gieure, G. Braque, Paris 1956, p. 70 with illus. 107; Vogue, New York, June 1, 1956, Fashion: It's So Peaceful - The Country Fashion, illus. p. 93 (fashion photo,"Photographed at the New Canaan, Connecticut, house of Mr. and Mrs Leee Ault"); John Russell, G. Braque, London 1959, with full-page illus. plate 62
Amsterdam 1945 (Stedelijk Museum), Georges Braque, Folder, cat. no. 6 ("Le moulin à café, De Koffiemolen, The coffeegrinder", erroneously with wrong dimensions "87 x 46"); Zurich 1946 (Kunsthaus Zürich), Georges Braque, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, cat. no. 19; Paris Juni 1947 (Galerie Maeght), G. Braque, cat. no. 21; Avignon 1947 (Palais des Papes), Exposition de peintures et sculptures contemporaines, cat. no. 20; Toronto 1949 (The Art Gallery of Toronto), Contemporary Paintings from Great Britain, The United States and France with Sculpture from the United States, cat. no. 164; New York 1964 (M. Knoedler and Co., Inc.), Georges Braque, An American Tribute, The Late Years (1910-63 and The Sculpture), No. 6 with illus. ["Oil and sand on canvas" "Mr. and Mrs. Lee A. Ault, New York"); Roslyn Harbor, New York 1994 (Nassau County Museum of Art), The Avant Garde of France: The 1940's and 1950's, no cat. no., with colour illus. plate III ("Cafe au Moulin" - sic - , no year, "Collection Mr. and Mrs. Lee A. Ault")