The French painter George Braque, on the one hand has been defined as a true innovator of art, since together with Picasso They invented Cubism. But at the same time he has been accused of immobility, since for years he repeatedly painted the same subjects and did so following the same aesthetic patterns.
And to a certain extent it is relatively true, since we can easily compare this 1911 work en titled The Portuguese with others very similar such as The landscape of L'Estaque or Woman with guitar.
In all of them it is discovered that the structural balance of the image was sought by building it from various planes. Geometrization is evident, and despite the fact that there is no abstraction, it is true that this way of capturing objects isolates them from reality. Perhaps for this reason, the most realistic elements, such as the guitar strings or the eyes, are particularly striking. That, along with the numbers or letters, is what makes the picture understandable.
In fact, this time is the first time that Braque introduces stenciled letters. This is a step that in later works will be transformed into the insertion of glued paper, that is, in collages with newspaper or magazine paper. That simple inclusion of the letters and numbers that give us clues for the understanding of the work, the critics consider it as something key in theevolution of Cubism, since during these years it would be an analytical Cubism, very hermetic. While from 1912 it will be what is called Synthetic Cubism, where there is more closeness to what is represented, as it is synthesized in much more understandable forms.
But what does the artist present to us here? Well, neither more nor less than it is a portrait of El Portugués, a musician. And to recreate it he uses horizontal, vertical or diagonal planes, which through lighting are given different facets, and each of them tries to tell us about the features of the face, the clothes he wears or his job.
To create these facets, light is very important, but also color. A color that has actually been reduced to the range of browns, ochres, and grays that reach black when they are lines. With all this, it generates a set of transparencies and overlays.
To this, as usual in Cubism, is added the geometry of the elements and their decomposition on different planes. That is to say, the vision of each one of those objects and elements is captured but from different points of view at the same time. These are the means of work of cubist art, which in this case are applied with the purpose of making a “global” portrait of El Portugués.