Braque and the Mural

While looking at mosaics and murals from the Socialist bloc countries, I came across a cropped image of this mural on a building in Halle-Neustadt, Germany. The first thing that struck me about the mural was that it reminded me of a Georges Braque cubist artwork – it has the same monochromatic color scheme, the same geometric shapes, and abstract appearance like many of Braque’s paintings.

The mural was made by Erich Enge in 1970-71 and can be found on the side facade of a housing block building inthe ex-East German city. It is titled “Er rührte an den schlaf der welt,” which translates to “He stirred the world’s slumber.” The mural is dedicated to Lenin and the impact he had on different aspects of Socialist life are depicted in the mural.

Georges Braque, Viloin and Candlestick, 1910.

Georges Braque (1882 – 1963) was a French artist who started as a Fauvist, but was so inspired by Picasso’s foray into analytical cubism with Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907), that he collaborated with Picasso and started experimenting with cubism. One of the first works as a result of this collaboration was Violin and Candlestick (1908) in which Braque knitted together the violin, sheet music, and other elements – all pushed close to the picture plane in monochromatic colors and cubist forms.

Georges Braque, The Portugese, 1910

Like the mural there is no slow progression to the surface or depth perception – natural shapes are lost and only representational motifs remain – more so in the Braque than the mural – but the similarities are striking and exciting. Another fragmented work – The Portugese (1911), shows the fractured forms of a musician and his guitar.

The amazing large-scale mural in Halle-Neustadt with its rectangular shapes, color scheme, and fragmented parts perhaps found inspiration in Braque’s works, just like Braque found inspiration in Picasso’s work.

(Images courtesy SFMOMA, and Erich Enge’s website).

Mosaics of Labor

I find these monumental Soviet era mosaics very attractive and thought provoking – the bright colors, the immense detail in the work, and of course the stories they tell of an era that has ended. They are of course propaganda mosaics – but if we can set that aside for a minute and just appreciate the intricate work that has gone into making them – they really are quite remarkable. Ex-USSR countries like Georgia and Ukraine seem to be filled with these mosaics, though many are in a dilapidated state.

Most of these are celebrating labor since working class people were supposed to be the ruling class according to Karl Marx. These mosaics were public art and decorated the exterior walls of school, factories, government building, and residential blocks, and celebrated the everyday working-class heroes on a larger than life scale. Much of this public art and cultural heritage of an era has been destroyed after the end of communism – but the ones that remain serve as a testament to that era.

(Images courtesy Socialist Realism Art websites & Instagram)