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Georges Braque (Robert Doisneau 1953)

The original photograph of Braque's hands was reproduced in Le Point XLVI, October 1953. I have a framed copy of this photograph opposite my desk – I see it every time I look up from the computer.

For the last 18 months or so, I've been thinking a lot about Braque again – all sorts of things, but particularly about the late 'Atelier' paintings. This, though, is about Braque's invention of papier colle and other events of 1912.

Braque invented papier colle while staying at Sorges, a village near Avignon, France. He and Picasso had arrived in Sorges in the late summer of 1912 following an earlier stay in Ceret.

During (probably) the second week of September 1912, Picasso had to return to Paris briefly to sort out his new studio, and only returned to Sorges towards the end of the month. While Picasso was away in Paris, Braque made the first papier colle using three pieces of wallpaper simulating wood-graining.

In a later conversation with Douglas Cooper, Braque confessed that he had seen this roll of wallpaper in a local shop when he and Picasso first arrived at Sorges, but waited until Picasso had left for Paris before buying it and using it to make the first papier colle (source John Golding).

One of Picasso's many pet names for Braque was 'Vilbour' or 'Wilbourg', a reference to Wilbur Wright (see Alex Danchev: 'Georges Braque'). Picasso saw in his working partnership with Braque through the period 1908 to 1914 something that resonated with that between the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, the pioneers of sustained powered flight.

In the Wright Brothers' article on their experiments in flight (published in Century Magazine, September 1908) the paragraph beginning "To work intelligently…" could be read as a conversation between Braque and Picasso on the development of Cubism – the sort of conversation as recorded by Salmon in La Jeune Sculpture Francais.

On 8th August 1908, Wilbur Wright was at Le Mans racetrack to demonstrate the capabilities of the Wright Flyer "in front of a cynical crowd of French reporters and public dignitaries". By chance, Louis Vauxcelles' 1908 review of the first Cubist exhibition in Gils Blas, in which he describes Braque as "an exceedingly bold young man", appeared under a report on Wilbur Wright's record breaking flight at Le Mans.

So where's all this going? Well, simply I want to note an intriguing sequence of events that happened in 1912. These are:

• the death of Wilbur Wright on 30th May 1912, at about the same time that Picasso was busy on three paintings titled 'Notre avenir est dans l'air' – Our Future is in the Air. I often wonder if Wilbur Wright's early death began the disintegration of Picasso and Brague's working partnership – a process that was completed when Braque enlisted in the French army to fight in the First World War.

• Braque making the first papier colle, 'Compotier et Verre', in September 1912, and how his inclusion of those three pieces of wallpaper imitating wood-graining changed the possibilities of painting forever.

• Radul Minkov and Prodan Toprakchiev, both pilots in the Bulgarian Air Force, carrying out the first aerial bombing on 16th October 1912 at Karaagac near Edime. And how this must have changed our future in the air forever, and, without doubt, led to Braque being bombed while on the Western Front.

here for more on Braque]