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Braque’s (Real) Art in the “Still Life with Violin and Pitcher”

AT CERTAIN MOMENTS IMAGINATIVE culture reformulates itself. These “moments” are generally slow movements whose significance appears only in retrospect: Romanticism, for instance, or the rise of the novel. In the instance of Cubism, however, “moment” almost literally describes the case. However the temporal parameters of Cubism are set, the years 1909 to 1914 certainly amount to its core—the period in which its achievement is most certain and its assumptions are realized in their full integrity.1

In George Braque’s Still Life with Violin and Pitcher, 1909–10, shown at the “Swiss Collections” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art last spring, the deconstruction of material reality into constituent surfaces has not reached the pitch it would in Picasso’s and Braque’s own later works. Here Braque’s violin and pitcher are, among other objects, clearly recognizable as such. But an intricate

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