saint-louis

Georges Braque, The Round Table, 1929, oil, sand, and charcoal on canvas, 57 3/8 x 44 3/4". © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

“Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928–1945”

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

Georges Braque, The Round Table, 1929, oil, sand, and charcoal on canvas, 57 3/8 x 44 3/4". © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

“Defeat is certain” was the admonishment given by Jean Paulhan, the former editor of La Nouvelle Revue Française and a stalwart of the French Resistance, to Claude Roy, a young poet who came seeking encouragement during one of the darker hours of the German occupation. In no mood to console, Paulhan instead steered his visitor before a small painting hung on the wall, Georges Braque’s Kitchen Table with Grill, 1942–43, a still life depicting a single cooked fish on a plate, accompanied by an iron griddle and a jug of wine.

One can imagine the bewilderment Roy must have felt during this strange object lesson. Who could seriously propose Braque as exemplar of (or corrective to) the aesthetics of resistance, given the painter’s refusal to take sides for or against the Vichy regime? To these concerns might be added the broader question of modernism’s fate during and after World War II:

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