Tate has acquired an important late painting by the celebrated cubist painter Georges Braque (1882-1963), The Billiard Table, 1945. The work was acquired with a grant of £100,000 from The National Art Collections Fund (Art Fund), with additional funding from the Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler Bequest, and Tate Members.
The painting. dated 1945, is one of a series of seven paintings of billiard tables executed by Braque between 1944 and 1952. This bold and playful series, started in the year of the Liberation of Paris, stands in marked contrast to Braque’s more sober and smaller works executed during the war years. M. Claude Laurens, son of the artist Henri Laurens who was a close friend of the artist and a regular visitor to his home, said that Braque did not possess a billiard table, and has suggested that this motif may have been based on ‘a youthful memory’.
The painting, which measures 85.9 x 116 cm, remained in Braque’s home throughout his lifetime. It was acquired by Tate directly from the family of a friend of the artist. Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler, who lived in the UK for many years, left left to Tate a collection of work and also a sum of money to be spent on a major work by artists associated with their collection. A display of their gift, including the Braque, will go on show at Tate Modern in Spring 2004. Gustav Kahnweiler was the brother of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler whose gallery in Paris supported Braque and Picasso during the years in which they pioneered cubism.
The Billiard Table immeasurably strengthens Tate’s representation of works by the artist. Aside from a number of works on paper, Tate has four strong cubist-period paintings, three small canvases of the mid-1920s, and a major work of 1927, Guitar and Jug. Executed nearly twenty years later, The Billiard Table shows Braque’s post-war development.
Major late works by Braque are rarely to be found in private hands. The owners of another major work by the artist, Studio V, 1949-51, which had been on loan to Tate for a number of years, sold the painting to the Museum of Modern Art.