Georges Braque: Artist's Statements


Braque in his Paris studio (circa 1932)

Braque trusted his art to speak for him, and he left little in the way of written statements or discussions of his intentions. His writings consist largely of the brief, enigmatic meditations on painting, aesthetics, life, and perception itself, with which he filled his notebooks almost from the beginning of his life as a painter, accompanying them with tenuously related calligraphic illustrations. These statements are so oblique and so compressed that they prompted interviewers to question Braque about his relationship to Zen Buddhism. He did profess an interest in Zen, but his epigrammatic habit predated his discovery of Buddhist thought by a good thirty years. (The first selection of Braque's aphorisms was published as extracts from his Cahiers in 1917, but he didn't come across a copy of D. T. Suzuki's Essais sur le Bouddhisme Zen until shortly after the war.) Braque's replies to interviewers suggest that he found Zen a confirmation rather than a cause of deeply held attitudes.

Karen Wilkin, Georges Braque, Abbeville Press, NY, 1991

Meaning in Modern Art (1917)

In art, progress does not consist in extension, but in the knowledge of limits.
Limitation of means determines style, engenders new form, and gives impulse to creation.
Limited means often constitute the charm and force of primitive painting. Extension,
on the contray, leads the arts to decadence.
New means, new subjects.
The subject is not the object, it is a new unity, a lyricism which grows completely from the means.
The painter thinks in terms of form and color.
The goal is not to be concerned with reconstituting an anecdotal fact,
but with constituting a pictorial fact.
Painting is a method of representation.
One must not imitate what one wants to create.
One does not imitate appearances; the appearance is the result.
To be pure imitation, painting must forget appearance.
To work from nature is to improvise.
One must beware of an all-purpose formula that will serve to interpret the other arts as well as
reality, and that instead of creating will only produce a style, or rather a stylization...
The senses deform, the mind forms. Work to perfect the mind.
There is no certitude but in what the mind conceives.
The painter who wished to make a circle would only draw a curve. Its appearance might satisfy him,
but he would doubt it. The compass would give him certitude. The pasted [papiers collés] in my
drawings also gave me a certitude.
Trompe l'oeil, is due to an anecdotal chance which succeeds because of the simplicity of the facts.
The pasted papers, the faux bois— and other elements of a similar kind— which I used in some of
my drawings, also succeed through the simplicity of the facts; this has caused them to be confused
with trompe l'oeil, of which they are the exact opposite. They are also simple facts, but are
created by the mind, and are one of the justifications for a new form in space.
Nobility grows out of contained emotion.
Emotion should not be rendered by an excited trembling; it can neither be added on
nor be imitated. It is the seed, the work is the blossom.
I like the rule that corrects the emotion.

Georges Braque, “Pensées et réflexions sur la peinture,” Nord-Sud 10 (December 1917).
Reprinted in Artists on Art, Edited by Robert Goldwater & Marco Treves, Pantheon, NY, 1958, pp. 422-423

Metamorphosis and Mystery (1964)

What artists have particular significance for me? It's difficult to say. You see the whole Renaissance tradition is antipathetic to me. The hard and fast rules of perspective which it imposed on art were a ghastly mistake which it has taken four centuries to redress: Cézanne and, after him, Picasso and myself can take a lot of the credit for this. Scientific perspective is nothing but eye-fooling illusionism; it is simply a trick— a bad trick— which makes it impossible for an artist to convey a full experience of space, since it forces the objects in a picture to disappear away from the beholdeer instead of bringing them within his reach, as painting should. That's why I have such a liking for primitive art: for very early Greek art, Etruscan art, Negro art. None of this has been deformed by Renaissance science. Negro masks in particular opened up a new horizon to me.

You see, I have made a great discovery: I no longer believe in anything. Objects don't exist for me except in so far as a rapport exists between them, and between them and myself. When one attains this harmony, one reaches a sort of intellectual non-existence— what I can only describe as a state of peace— which makes everything possible and right. Life then becomes a perpetual revelation.

“Metamorphosis and Mystery,” based on John Richardson's conversations with Georges Braque,
in Georges Braque: An American Tribute, Edited by John Richardson, Public Education Association, NY, 1964.
Originally “The Power and Mystery of Georges Braque,” Observer (London), December 1, 1957

| Top of Page | Braque Notebooks | Braque's Patience | Braque & Dürer |
| Braque Symbolism | Bird in Foliage | Paper Collages | August 31 | Home |

© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (9-7-2000)