Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928–1945

January 25, 2013 - April 21, 2013
Ebsworth Gallery

Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928–1945 offers the first detailed examination of Braque’s experiments with still lifes and interiors during the years leading up to and through World War II, an overlooked and transitional period in the career of this leading founder of Cubism. Braque employed the genre of the still life to conduct a lifelong investigation into the nature of perception through the tactile and transitory world of everyday objects.

Attending to the cyclical nature of the artist’s work, the project examines the transformations in Braque’s creative process as he moved from painting small, intimate interiors in the late 1920s, to depicting bold, large-scale, tactile Cubist spaces in the 1930s, to creating personal renderings of daily life in the 1940s. In order to understand Braque’s artistic process, conservators performed technical analysis on a selection of paintings to investigate how he manipulated art materials for compositional effect and returned to canvases to alter and rework the paint surface. Braque’s methods and techniques—his pigments and materials—during this moment are all examined for the very first time.

The exhibition also considers his work in relation to contemporary aesthetic debates about politically engaged culture. In a war-torn era that saw the emergence of philosophies that questioned the very nature of human existence and experience, such as existentialism and phenomenology, Braque’s uninterrupted devotion to the Cubist still life may appear at odds with the historical and political circumstances of the time. But if his attention to the private, secluded world of still lifes suggests a disengagement with political and historical circumstances, the paintings themselves and their contemporary reception convey a more complex narrative—one that has been virtually unexplored by curators and scholars until now.

A collaboration with The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, the exhibition will consist of more than thirty-five paintings, produced between 1928 and 1945, drawn from public and private collections in the United States and Europe. Following its showing at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum from January 25 to April 21, 2013, the exhibition will travel to The Phillips Collection, where it will be on view from June 8 to September 1, 2013.

Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928–1945 is curated by Karen K. Butler, assistant curator, and Renée Maurer, assistant curator, The Phillips Collection.

Read the Press Release >>

Exhibition support

Support for Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928–1945 is generously provided by James M. Kemper, Jr.; the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation; the William T. Kemper Foundation; Anabeth and John Weil; Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; Elissa and Paul Cahn; Nancy and Ken Kranzberg; the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission; and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Exhibition catalog

A fully-illustrated color catalog published by the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, The Phillips Collection, and Prestel is available in the Museum Shop or through Prestel. The catalog is by Karen K. Butler in collaboration with Renée Maurer and includes contributions by Karen K. Butler, Patricia Favero, Uwe Fleckner, Gordon Hughes, Narayan Khandekar, Renée Maurer, Erin Mysak, and Éric Trudel, as well as first-time English translations of Jean Paulhan’s Braque le Patron (1945) and Carl Einstein’s introduction to Braque’s 1933 retrospective exhibition at the Kunsthalle Basel. Reproduced in vivid color, Braque’s paintings are accompanied by scholarly essays that explore the rise of Braque’s popularity in the United States, including his first major retrospective in America and the reception of his work of the early 1930s and 1940s by German and French critics, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the materials and process employed by the artist as illuminated by an intensive conservation study of select important works.

Educator resources

The Museum's Education department connects special exhibitions with students of all levels through specialized tours, curriculum plans, hands-on activities, and more. Download the Educator's Guide for the exhibition for more details.

You can also download the Conservation Brochure for the Braque exhibition, developed by Patricia Favero (associate conservator, The Phillips Collection), Erin Mysak (Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Art Museums), and Narayan Khandekar (Senior Conservation Scientist, Harvard Art Museums).

Media links

- Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928–1945 press release (November 14, 2012)
- Exhibition preview by Krista Wilkinson-Midgley of the Edwardsville Intelligencer (November 27, 2012)
- Exhibition preview by Kristen Hare of the St. Louis Beacon (January 16, 2013)
- Exhibition preview (audio and video) by Tim Lloyd of St. Louis Public Radio (January 25, 2013)
- St. Louis Public Radio's Steve Potter interviews co-curator Karen Butler and art conservator Patricia Favero for Cityscape (January 25, 2013)
- Exhibition preview by Stefene Russell of the St. Louis magazine (February 2013)
- Exhibition preview in Where magazine (February 2013, p. 20)
- Exhibition review by Calvin Wilson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (February 3, 2013)
- Interview with Karen K. Butler by Tyler Green of the Modern Art Notes Podcast (February 28, 2013)
- Feature on the Nine Network's Sunday Arts, airing 1p, March 31
- Exhibition review by Karen Wilkin of The Wall Street Journal (March 26, 2013)