We’re really getting into our Walks of London Art blogs. Hopefully you are too and hopefully you are starting to see that our London walks mantra of – LOOK EVERYWHERE – especially makes sense when you look at a work of modern art.
Today we’re still in the States of Flux wing at Tate Modern teasing little bits out of Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantlepiece, painted in 1911 by the pioneer of the cubist movement Georges Braque.
We were talking earlier about how our various London walks really do make people look at London. Not just see London, but really look at it. Let’s continue this theme with a final look at Braque’s 1911 painting.
So far we have teased out the form of the bottle of rum and the clarinet from the painting.
Today we are going to find the mantlepiece!
Looking to the bottom left corner of the painting you find the start of two thick black lines that run diagonally from left to right across the painting and end towards its top right corner.
These form the shape of the mantlepice.
Furthermore, towards the bottom light corner, there is a curved shape that could be a corbel or a mantlepiece support.
So by looking at these lines we can now see that a clarinet and a bottle of rum do, indeed, sit on a mantlepiece and thus have managed to locate the three objects for items mentioned in the title of the painting.
But why did Georges Braque choose to depict his subjects in such a distorted and disjointed fashion?
Why, if he wanted to paint a clarinet and a bottle of rum on a mantlepiece didn’t he simply do so as a still life and paint them full on?
The solution lies in the era when the painting was done. In the early years of the 20th century cameras were starting to be mass produced and photographs were beginning to replace paintings as a means of showing reality and every day life to people.
Painters felt themselves freed from the constraints of the past. No longer did they have to be restrained by the need to present depth, shade and colour. Instead they could aim at bringing a new perspective to painting and this was the style that Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso pioneered.
They would dissect their subjects, analyse them and then re-assemble them in an abstract form that presented the viewer with multiple perspectives and views of the same object or subject.
So, in the case of Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantlepiece we are seeing the three objects from multiple angles. We are looking down at the mantlepiece from above, looking at it sideways on, or even looking up at it from below. We are being given the opportunity to view the objects from multiple angles all at the same time.
This was the style that Picasso and Braque Pioneered.
In 1908 the French art critic Louis Vauxcelles described one of Georges Braque’s paintings as “full of little cubes.” The phrase caught on and the movement that Braque and Picasso has pioneered became universally known as Cubism.
So we end out look at the painting by George Braque in Tate Modern.
This weekend you can join Richard on one of his London Ghost Walks, or you can join one of our hugely popular Jack the Ripper Tours that explore the darker recesses of London’s East End.