Galerie Maeght, Paris
In 1932, Ambroise Vollard, a merchant fascinated by artists’ books, proposed Georges Braque to illustrate Hesiod’s Theogony, a work written in the 7th century BC, which narrates the birth of universe and gods’ origin. Thus, by drawing on the richness of Greek mythology, he highlights his need for purity in forms and universality in the subjects treated.
Between 1932 and 1935, among the numerous drawings he created, he ended up by choosing sixteen compositions. Later on, he entrusted the printing of these etchings to the Greek painter Demetrios Galanis, whose studio was installed in Montmartre. However, this task was only completed twenty years later.
Through these sixteen compositions, we tirelessly follow a continuous line, twisted and yet fluid, that the painter seems to have drawn on the spur of the moment. These arabesques, full of grace and clarity, remind us of the surrealists’ automatic writing. They moulded, in turns, the outlines of Hesiod himself, of Gaia, Hera, Artemis, Themis, Nike, Hercules and the lesser-known Zelus. Often surrounded by a meticulously constructed frame, they challenge the viewer by their obvious simplicity, which conceals, following a more continuous examination, the artist’s real concern for the form, the balance between curves and lines, fullness and hollowness.
As often happens in all forms of art, apparent simplicity, the one that knows how to conquer both the scholar and the layman, the enthusiastic and the most reticent, hides in fact a quantity of work beyond belief. And this is the case of Georges Braque and his view of Theogony.