French painter, who, with Pablo Picasso, originated cubism and the cubist style, to become one of the major figures of 20th-century art.
Braque was born May 13, 1882, in Argenteuil-sur-Seine, near Paris; he grew up there and in the port city of Le Havre. In 1899, following in his father's occupation, he apprenticed himself as a house painter. By 1902, however, he had settled in Paris to pursue the study of painting as a fine art; he was deeply impressed by the bold style of works exhibited in 1905 by the Fauves (French for the wild beasts). The Fauves included Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, who painted with brilliant colors and a loose structure of forms to capture the most intense emotional response. Braque adopted Fauvism from 1906 to 1907.
By 1908, however, Braque had shifted his attention to the paintings of Paul Cezanne, who was reputed to have restored order and discipline to the extremes of artistic expression. Braque's interest in Cézanne's strangely distorted forms and unconventional perspective led him to paint in the manner that came to be called cubist. In his works of 1908 to 1913 Braque conducted an intense study of the effects of light and perspective and the technical means that painters use to represent these effects. He seemed to question most standard artistic conventions. In his village scenes, for example, Braque frequently reduced an architectural structure to a geometric form approximating a cube—or, more precisely, a rectangular prism—yet rendered its shading so that its volume seemed to be contradicted—that is, it looked both flat and three-dimensional. In this way Braque called attention to the very nature of visual illusion and artistic representation.
Picasso, with whom Braque began to work closely in 1909, had been developing a similar approach to painting. Both artists produced paintings of neutralized color and complex patterns of faceted form, now called analytic cubism, in about 1910 to 1912, as demonstrated in Braque's Violin and Pitcher. Both also began to experiment with collage, a technique of constructing an image from the materials of everyday life—newspapers, labels, pieces of fabric. The fertile collaboration of Braque and Picasso continued until Braque enlisted in the French army in 1914; he was severely wounded in World War I (1914-1918) and resumed his artistic career alone in 1917.
After the war, Braque developed a more personal style, characterized by brilliant color and textured surfaces and, following his move to the Normandy seacoast, the reappearance of the human figure. He painted many still lifes during this time, maintaining his emphasis on structure. He continued to work throughout his life, producing a considerable number of distinguished paintings, graphics, and sculptures, all imbued with a pervasive contemplative quality. He died August 31, 1963, in Paris.