These prints by Georges Braque (1882-1963) had been glued onto the reverse of their top mat and had suffered from heavy foxing. The print with the white bird also has fungal and mold invasions, and is also peculiar in that a shellac-like material was applied to the surface but not the back. This means that water will absorb on the reverse and not the front, and these different absorptions rates are notorious for causing wrinkles.
Restoration is ongoing with the white bird print, technically known as L’oiseau de feu (Oiseau XIII). Each bird received its own water (chemistry) bath, and soon they’ll be able to migrate back home with new mats and archival hinging.
Georges Braque was born on May 13, 1882, in Argenteuil-sur-Seine, France. He grew up in Le Havre and studied evenings at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts from about 1897 to 1899. He left for Paris to study under a master decorator to receive his craftsman certificate in 1901.
From 1902 to 1904 he painted at the Académie Humbert in Paris, where he met Marie Laurencin and Francis Picabia. By 1906 Braque was doing work which was no longer Impressionist but Fauve in style. After spending that summer in Antwerp with Othon Friesz, he showed his Fauve work the following year in the Salon des Indépendants exhibition in Paris.
His first solo show was at Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler’s gallery in 1908. From 1909 Pablo Picasso and Braque worked together in developing Cubism; by 1911 their styles were extremely similar. In 1912 they started to incorporate collage elements into their paintings and to experiment with the papier collé (pasted paper) technique. Their artistic collaboration lasted until 1914. Braque served in the French army during World War I and was wounded; upon his recovery in 1917 he began a close friendship with Juan Gris.
After World War I, Braque’s work became freer and less schematic. His fame grew in 1922 as a result of an exhibition at the Salon d’Automne in Paris. In the mid-1920s Braque designed the decor for two Sergei Diaghilev ballets. By the end of the decade, he had returned to a more realistic interpretation of nature, although certain aspects of Cubism always remained present in his work. In 1931 Braque made his first engraved plasters and began to portray mythological subjects. His first important retrospective took place in 1933 at the Kunsthalle Basel. He won first prize at the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, in 1937.
During World War II, Braque remained in Paris. His paintings at that time, primarily still lifes and interiors, became more somber. In addition to paintings, Braque also made lithographs, engravings, and sculptures. From the late 1940s he treated various recurring themes such as birds, ateliers, landscapes, and seascapes. In 1954 he designed stained-glass windows for the church of Varengeville. During the last few years of his life, Braque had ill health which prevented him from undertaking further large-scale commissions, but he continued to paint, make lithographs, and design jewelry.
He died on August 31, 1963, in Paris.