Le Portugais (The Emigrant) (1911) by Georges Braque

Le Portugais (The Emigrant) - Georges Braque - 1911

Artwork Information

TitleLe Portugais (The Emigrant)
ArtistGeorges Braque
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions116.8 x 81 cm
Art MovementAnalytical Cubism
Current LocationKunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Location Created France

About Le Portugais (The Emigrant)

“Le Portugais (The Emigrant)” is an artwork by Georges Braque, dated to 1911. This oil on canvas painting belongs to the Analytical Cubism movement, portraying its subject matter in a fragmented, geometric style typical of this period. Measuring 116.8 by 81 cm, the portrait genre painting is currently housed in the Kunstmuseum Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Braque created this artwork in France, and it is a significant example of his innovative style, which contributed to the development of modern art during the early 20th century.

Examining the artwork, one is met with a complex array of geometric shapes and fragmented forms that are characteristic of Analytical Cubism, a style which Braque developed alongside Pablo Picasso. The muted color palette consists mainly of earth tones, and the painting features interlocking planes and faceted forms that both fracture and unify the composition. The layered textures suggest depth, despite the flattening effect of the cubist style.

Abstract lettering appears throughout the piece, integrating textual elements with the visual, a technique that Braque and Picasso often employed in their cubist works. This blending of text and image invites viewers to explore the painting’s surface as a cohesive whole rather than searching for a singular narrative. The title, “Le Portugais,” suggests a reference to a Portuguese figure, and this linguistic clue is complemented by what appear to be musical elements within the arrangement, possibly alluding to the sitter’s identity or profession, such as a musician or a guitar player. However, the actual figure is abstracted nearly beyond recognition, which is emblematic of the movement’s departure from traditional representational art.

The placement of the artwork in its creative context—France during a period of rich artistic experimentation—reflects Braque’s role in the incubation of a movement that would profoundly influence the trajectory of modern art. It stands as a testament to the era’s radical re-imagining of the visual language used to capture the essence of a subject.

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