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The Table

Georges Braque, French, 1882 - 1963

Made in France, Europe


Oil on canvas

52 5/16 x 29 3/4 inches (132.9 x 75.6 cm)

© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

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Painted shortly after his recovery from a head wound suffered in World War I, The Table suggests a return to Braque's early training with his father, a painter-decorator who taught him how to simulate the appearance of wood grain and marble. The sensuous textures and decorative surfaces-the wood patterns, the polka dots, and the letters situating us in a "[ca]fé-bar"-enliven the picture with the distinct air of pleasure and poetry characteristic of Braque's Synthetic Cubist paintings. The Table initiated a decade-long series of paintings in which still-life elements are arranged on the tipped-up surface of a wooden pedestal table.

Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Still life provided Braque with inexhaustible lifelong subject matter. Like his great French predecessor Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, he found the seemingly limited platform of the tabletop a richly ample universe for his pictorial explorations. But whereas eighteenth-century artists such as Chardin attached symbolic significance to their still-life objects, Braque felt no such obligation for a painting to harbor meaning. Nor was he required to provide the illusion of a clear and defined space. As direct heir to the experimentation of Cézanne and partner of Picasso in the invention of Cubism, Braque used the still life as a vehicle for the development of a visual language accountable to its own rules rather than to nature.

    The Table asserts that, for Braque, these rules concerned the animation of a flat picture plane through rhythm, texture, color, and shape. Recognizable elements remain: a pear, grapes, a newspaper (with the masthead "j[ourn]al"), a playing card, a rectangular tabletop, curving feet. But echoing contours, overlapping planes, and syncopated tonalities provide the coherence and structure that allow the composition to stand independent of resemblance to an actual table. The Table hails from Braque's first year of work after two years of recovery from a severe head wound suffered in World War I. In a sense, the hiatus returned him to his roots: the new paintings exemplified the delight and virtuosity in the craft of painting stemming from Braque's childhood as the son of a painter-decorator, when he learned such techniques as false wood graining, marbleizing, and lettering. The sensuous textures and decorative surfaces--the different wood patterns, the polka dots, the soft letters situating us in a "[ca]fe-bar"--enliven the picture with the distinct air of pleasure and poetry central to Braque's celebration of painting. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 54.