Les Oiseaux, The Birds, features two large birds flying gracefully amidst a bright blue sky and a splattering of stars plus a moon. The artist chooses not to go into much detail at all here and the simplicity but beauty of this painting will remind many of the work of Matisse in his later years. Matisse's cut-outs displayed incredible ingenuity at a time when his health problems were limiting his capabilities as an artist. Icarus is perhaps the most famous example of his work using that technique. Both Matisse and Braque worked in the Fauvist style during their careers, but the latter would then move into the cubist movement for several decades. Les Oiseaux represents something quite different and came about in the early 1950s, by which time would have been approaching his seventies.
Another artist that produced work with birds in mind was Picasso. He worked collaboratively with Braque for many years, but the illustrations of birds were created at another stage of his career. We all enjoy the simple genius of the likes of Owl, Penguin and Flamingo, but there was more to this that just aesthetic enjoyment. Picasso actually kept a number of different animals as pets during his lifetime and not all of them were the standard domesticated choices that you might expect such as cats and dogs. He encouraged pigeons into his inner city flat and then kept farmyard animals at his mansion after moving out to the countryside. Going further back, you might also appreciate the The Little Owl from Albrecht Durer.
The artwork that we find displayed here was from a commission given to the artist in order to help decorate a part of the famous Louvre Museum in Paris. It was the type of project that no artist could realistically turn down, with the chance to produce art for such an institution, but also for it to be installed permanently within the gallery. It was installed in the Henri II room and once you see it there, you will entirely understand the design that Braque produced. The idea being that essentially you are looking through a gap in the ceiling, hence the blue sky, the moon, the birds and the stars. It is a very modern design for such a traditional art museum and so perhaps the choice of Braque may have surprised a number, both then and also still today.