Georges Braque : Still Life: Le Jour

Overview Artist Biography Planning Ahead Materials & Setup Class Discussion Project Directions Reflections Downloads & Resources Docent Forum

Overview

1929, oil on canvas, 45 1/4 in. x 57 3/4 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA Chester Dale Collection Image © 2007 Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

In this lesson, students will:

  • Analyze Braque’s Still Life: Le Jour and learn about Cubism and how Braque showed objects from multiple viewpoints
  • Identify the elements of line, color, shape, texture, and space in the composition
  • Describe objects from daily life and compare multiple viewpoints;
  • Discuss how repetition of color, shape, and texture helps unify a composition
  • Sketch still-life objects from daily life, showing multiple viewpoints
  • Create cubist still-life compositions showing single objects from different viewpoints

Lesson Teaching Notes

A document of summary pages on the lesson’s Key Concepts, Discussion Questions, Artist Points, and Project Directions.

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Materials and Setup

Materials List
  • Digital Device (e.g. computer or tablet)
  • Digital Paint App on the device
    • Some suggestions: Adobe Draw , Brushes Redux, Paper 53, Sketch Pad, or Sketchbook Edu – some are iPad and/or Android apps, some may have computer versions as well.
Setup Directions
  • Preload digital devices with the desired digital paint app.
  • Familiarize yourself with the user interface of the digital paint app.
  • Consider having a separate short class session to learn about the digital paint app, before teaching a digital art lesson.
Variations

Photos of Setup

Class Discussion

Why is this lively composition called a still life?
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Style - Still life

This still life shows everyday inanimate objects, objects that cannot move on their own. The guitar, pitcher, knife, apples, newspaper, and pipe rest on a kitchen table as if ready to use at any moment. The smaller objects in front—apples, knife and newspaper—balance the large pitcher and guitar. The smoke from the pipe represents the only actual movement in the picture.

How did Braque combine everyday objects in a Cubist composition?
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Style - Cubist

Cubism is a style that shows movement by combining multiple viewpoints of an object. We see the pitcher and guitar from the top and from the side at the same time. The table is tipped so it is seen from both the top and the front view. In 1929, when Braque painted this picture, photographs could show actual objects, so many artists no longer desired to paint realistic pictures. Braque tried to add a feeling of movement by combining different views of the objects as if the viewer were moving.

How are the objects abstract?
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Design - Abstract

The abstract shapes of the guitar, pitcher, pipe, and newspaper represent recognizable objects, but they are simplified and exaggerated. The guitar appears to be cut in half and reassembled into abstract, or simplified shapes. The pipe and its smoke are exaggerated, like a cartoon.

Why is this painting called Le Jour?
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Design - Realistic

Le Journal is the name of a daily newspaper in France. The paper is folded so we see only part of the title: Le Jour, which is the French word for today. This painting shows the way these objects appear today, at this moment. The background paneling and wallpaper create a realistic setting. The apples and knife with their shaded contours, and the wood grain on the drawer are realistic.

How are the still life objects in the painting united?
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Design - Composition/Unity

The colors of the wallpaper, wood paneling, and black and green shapes in the background surround the objects on both sides of the central axis line that runs through the background and table. The slightly unbalanced composition adds to the feeling of movement.

The table top appears tipped forward, yet the objects are not falling off. They are united, or held together, by the repeated lines, shapes and colors. The diagonal line of the guitar is repeated in the angle of the knife and the black and green wedge shape, and is reversed in the newspaper and the pipe stem. The round shapes are repeated in the guitar, pitcher, apples, drawer handle, and pipe.

The shape of the knife’s jagged point repeats the angle of the guitar, the newspaper, and the two green shapes behind the table. Their angular, arrow-like outlines direct our eye around the composition.

How do repeated lines and shapes unify the composition?
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Line - Outline/Contour

Repeated black outlines around the guitar, pitcher, knife, and paneling connect the objects and unify the composition. The outline emphasizes their flat shape.

The realistic apples do not have a black outline. Their outside edge, or contour, contrasts with a light background, which makes them appear to pop out from the table.

Where are we, the observers?
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Space - Viewpoint/Negative Space

We see these objects from different viewpoints. We see the table from a top view and a side view at the same time, as if we were standing up, leaning over, or moving to the side.

Negative, or empty space, shown by the blocks of color behind the objects covers the busy wallpaper pattern and helps emphasize the objects.

Which colors are neutral and which colors are lively?
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Color - Neutral

The neutral colors of the tan table, wallpaper, brown walls, and green and black shapes in the background frame the objects. The blue and yellow objects contrast with the neutral background and add to the liveliness.

Which shapes are 3-D?
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Shape/Form - 2-D Shape/3-D Shape/Highlights/Shadow

The newspaper is two dimensional, or 2-D, in shape. It is flat, without depth.

Shading and highlights give the apples form and make them appear 3-D with height, width, and depth.

Highlights on the apples create the illusion of form. Highlights on the flat, abstract pitcher also suggests its rounded form.

The blue area on the pitcher represents a shadow. The light source from the upper left corner casts a shadow on the newspaper, the guitar, the knife edge, and a table leg.

Is there real texture in this picture?
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Texture - Actual/Visual

Many Cubist compositions were collages, made of patterned wallpaper, real newspaper, wood, and other actual objects with actual texture that the viewer could feel.

Since this is a painting, the texture is only visual, not actual. Braque was known for his skill in painting visual texture. Although the paint is applied smoothly, the patterns in the wallpaper and paneled walls look textured, as do the table, the shiny knife, and the smooth apples. Compare them with the flat surfaces of the guitar and pitcher.

Download Discussion Questions
Download Key Concepts

Video

Project Directions

Cubist Collage

Directions

This project requires the paint app have Layers capability.

  1. Create a new project or canvas.
  2. Set a background color. If your app doesn’t have this capability, color the entire layer with a large brush.
  3. Close the app and use the camera to walk around and photograph different colored and patterned papers.
  4. Reopen the project canvas.
  5. Select a color for a table. Draw and fill in the table. Use the eraser and brush to improve its shape.
  6. Import from your photo library one of the photos you took of the papers. Select a “paper” that contrasts well with the background and table.
  7. Reposition the paper and even erase parts of the paper image so you have the exact shape you want. Place the paper layer UNDERNEATH the table layer
  8. Choose a theme for your collage, like birthday. Draw five themed objects:
    • 2 objects with painted patterns
    • 1 object with positive and negative shapes
    • 1 object that is cut in half (drawn in two parts).
    • 1 object shown from two different viewpoints
  9. Form a balanced composition, add highlights and
    shadows if desired.
  10. Save to gallery and start a new project!

NOTES:

  • If paint app does not have layers, moving objects is not available, as shown in the video.
  • Create a new layer for each object you draw (like table, etc.). Make sure layers are set to 100% opacity.
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Variations

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