Galerie Adrien Maeght, Paris
Andros, Museum of Contemporary Art, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Glancing at the Century, 28 June - 20 September 1998, p. 58, ill. p. 59
During the 1950s, the Greek Stratís Elefthteriádis, also known as Tériade, was one of the most important figures in the domain of art publishing in Paris. From 1937, he published his own artistic and literary magazine, called Verve, a luxurious bilingual publication, marked by collaborations with major figures from the world of Arts and Letters.
The issue numbers 31-32 of the magazine, released in 1955, were dedicated to Georges Braque. The artist and Tériade had known each other for several years. When the publisher suggested the dedication of a special issue to his honour, Braque chose to publish his Intimate Sketchbooks, a series of sketches he was keeping with care until then and certain of them dated back to World War I. On the same occasion, he printed sixteen lithographs based on those drawings, including the Thistle, presented here.
The artist’s choice to include this watercolour on paper, dating from the early 1920s, in this set, may at first seem surprising. However, behind this joyful monochromic and seemingly simplistic composition, all Braque’s concerns during this transition period for the history of art are hidden. Reluctant to the idea of joining a group and holding dear his individuality and independence, the artist was then against the tide of the Dadaist and subsequently Surrealist movements. If he remained faithful to figuration and voluntarily opted for subjects of a confusing simplicity, it was only to question, in his own way and far from any exaggeration, the fundamental art principles. His treatment of a simple thistle is the proof: even this thorny plant, often considered as a nuisance or poison, can become a subject. Under Braque’s brush strokes, the thistle is distorted, flattened, and gives without any help the impression of a wisely made up bouquet. Each petal of the flower gains in importance and each leaf, covered with thorns, softens in order to form a harmonious whole. Here the figuration aspect is nothing more than a pretext: it is not a matter of representing, but of evoking, playing, transforming, according to the painter’s sole subjectivity.