Catalogue entry

Georges Braque 1882-1963

T00445 Bouteille et Poissons (Bottle and Fishes) c.1909-12

Inscribed 'G. Braque' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 29 1/2 (61.5 x 75)
Purchased from the E. & A. Silberman Galleries through the Galerie Beyeler (Grant-in-Aid) 1961
Prov: With Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris (purchased from the artist 1912); Kahnweiler sale, Drouot, Paris, 7-8 May 1923, lot 130, repr. as 'Les Poissons'; bt. Josef Müller, Solothurn, 500 frs.; with E. & A. Silberman Galleries, New York
Exh: Skupina výtvarnych umĕlců, Obecní dům mĕsta Prahy, Prague, May-June 1913 (10) as 'Fishes' 1911; Georges Braque, Kunsthalle, Basle, April-May 1933 (25); Juan Gris, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Kunsthalle, Basle, February-March 1948 (125); Kunsthalle, Bern, April 1948 (7); Exhibition 1961, E. & A. Silberman Galleries, New York, March-April 1961 (3, repr.)
Lit: George Isarlov, 'Georges Braque' in Orbes, No.3, Spring 1932, p.82, No.64 as 'Bouteille et Poissons'; John Golding, Cubism: A History and an Analysis 1907-1914 (London 1959), p.85, repr. pl.29b; Marco Valsecchi and Massimo Carrà, L'Opera Completa di Braque 1908-1929 (Milan 1971), No.58, p.88, repr. and dated 1910
Repr: Studio, CLXIII, 1962, p.10

This picture is listed by Isarlov among Braque's works of 1909, with a note that it was taken up again and finished in 1912. However it was exhibited in Prague in May 1913 with the date 1911, and it has a Galerie Kahnweiler label on the back inscribed with the title and date 'Fishes 1911'. (A second Galerie Kahnweiler label bears the alternative title 'The Kitchen Table'). It appears to have been worked on over a long period, as it is exceptionally heavily painted and is far from homogeneous in style. The composition, with its fractured forms, resembles that of certain of the still lifes painted in the winter of 1909-10, such as 'Violin and Jug' in the Kunstmuseum, Basle, but the stippled brushstrokes are clearly later and are similar to those in paintings of 1911-12. It seems probable that it was begun either at the end of 1909 or early in 1910, and then extensively reworked in 1911; and that the finishing touches were added in 1912, either just before or just after it was sold to the Galerie Kahnweiler.

The still life includes a bottle, an object like an empty fruit bowl, and three fishes on a plate, all standing on a table with a drawer. A painting of a 'Basket of Fishes' now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (50 x 61 cm) shows three fishes grouped in more or less the same arrangement, but lying in a basket with a handle instead of on a plate. It was dated 1911 by Isarlov and must have been done while Braque was still occupied with the present work, either as a study for the central part of the composition or, more probably, as a variant. These two works were apparently his earliest still lifes of fish.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.76-7, reproduced p.76