The Round Table and a Story of Friendship: Georges Braque and Erik Satie

3)Georges Braque, The Round Table, 1929. Oil, sand, charcoal on canvas, 57 3/8 x 44 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1934 © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Georges Braque, The Round Table, 1929. Oil, sand, charcoal on canvas, 57 3/8 x 44 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1934 © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Georges Braque was a great admirer of music who played several instruments including the accordion, flute, and violin. He often referenced music in his paintings of still life, and thirteen are on view in the Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life 1928-1945 exhibition.

For example, in The Round Table, 1929 (seen at left), Braque features a guitar, sheet music, an étude (a short musical composition) along with other objects atop a table in the corner of a room. Across the open pages of the sheet music, the letters E ATIE appear. Already in 1911, Braque introduced lettering into his cubist works because: “[their] presence made it possible to distinguish the objects situated in space from those that were outside space.” The letters E ATIE seen here may allude to composer Erik Satie (1866-1925) who met Braque through Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929). Braque and Satie, both originally from the Normandy region of France, shared a 16 year friendship, and lunched together weekly. In the painting, Guitar and Glass (Socrates), 1919, [Musée Pompidou, Paris], Braque paid tribute to Satie and the composer’s oratorio from 1917-1918. Three years later, in 1921, they collaborated on the printed edition of Le piège de Méduse, a short play with music by Satie for which Braque contributed 3 color woodcuts, his first foray into book illustration. When Braque painted The Round Table, he may have again been thinking of Satie, who had recently passed away, and was so dear to him that he acquired a portrait of the composer as well as one of his pianos.

Renée Maurer, Assistant Curator

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