"Harlequin and Pierrot" (175 x 175 cm, oil on canvas, c. 1924)
I love this painting. I can almost hear the music by these performers.
Derain, André (1880–1954), French painter; an exponent of fauvism.
Derain was born in 1880 in Chatou, Yvelines, Île-de-France, just outside Paris. When he was only 15 years old, Derain received his first painting lessons from his friend La Noé. During these early teen years, he painted his first landscapes. Between 1898 and 1900 Derain attended the 'Académie Carrieère' in Paris while at the same time working with Matisse and Vlaminck in his studio. He would become important friends with Matisse and Vlaminck during these years.
Derain shared a studio with Maurice de Vlaminck and continued to paint landscapes. His studies were interrupted from 1901 to 1904 when he was conscripted into the French army. Following his release from service, Matisse persuaded Derain's parents to allow him to abandon his engineering career and devote himself solely to painting; subsequently Derain attended the Académie Julian.
Derain spent the summer of 1905 with Matisse in the Mediterranean village of Collioure and exhibited his highly innovative Fauvist paintings at the Paris 'Salon d'Automne' that very same year. The vivid, unnatural colors led the critic Louis Vauxcelles to derisively dub his works as les Fauves, or "the wild beasts," marking the start of the Fauvist movement.
Road at L'Estaque" (oil on canvas, c. 1906)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Texas
In March 1906, the noted art dealer Ambroise Vollard sent Derain to London to compose a series of paintings with the city as subject. In 30 paintings (29 of which are still extant), Derain put forth a portrait of London that was radically different from anything done by previous painters, most notably Whistler and Monet. With bold colors and compositions, Derain painted multiple pictures of the Thames and Tower Bridge. These London paintings remain among his most popular work.
"Collioure: le port de pêche" (81.5 cm x 100 cm, oil on canvas, c. 1905)
"Slim, elegant, with a lively colour and enamelled black hair. With an English chic, somewhat striking. Fancy waistcoats, ties in crude colours, red and green. Always a pipe in his mouth, phlegmatic, mocking, cold, and an arguer."
The Tate Gallery, London
While at Montmartre, Derain began to shift from the brilliant Fauvist palette to more muted tones, showing the influence of Cubism and Paul Cézanne on his work. Derain supplied woodcuts in primitivist style for an edition of Guillaume Apollinaire's first book of prose, L'enchanteur pourrissant (1909). He displayed works at the Neue Künstlervereinigung, Munich, in 1910 and at the secessionist Der Blaue Reiter in 1912. Derain's 'période gothique' (gothic period) began in 1912. During this period the role of color was reduced and forms became austere, but it was during this time that Derain painted his most original works, which were shown at the 'Armory Show' in New York and the 'Erster Herbstsalon' in Berlin in 1913.
In 1914, Derain was mobilized for military service in World War I. He had little time for painting until his release in 1919. He did, however, provide some illustrations for André Breton's first book, Mont de Piete.
After the war, Derain won new acclaim as a leader of the renewed classicism then ascendant. With the wildness of his Fauve years far behind, he was admired as an upholder of tradition. In 1919 he designed the ballet La Boutique fantasque for Diaghilev, leader of the Ballets Russes. A major success, it would lead to his creating many more ballet designs.
During the 1920s Derain mainly stayed in Southern France, where he painted his famouse pierrots, harlequins and numerous dancers. These years marked the height of his success, as he was awarded the Carnegie Prize in 1928 and began to exhibit extensively abroad—in London, Berlin, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, New York City, and Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Tate Gallery, London
In 1935 the Berne 'Kunsthalle' organized a first major retrospective of his works. In the same year Derain moved to Chambourcy. During the 1930s the artist received numerous commissions by the Paris opera to design costumes and decoration. In 1932 he also illustrated Ovid's 'Heroides' and in 1938 Oscar Wilde's 'Salome'. One year earlier, in 1937, he participated in a retrospective exhibition of the 'Indépendants' in Paris.
During the German occupation of France in World War II, Derain had been living primarily in Paris and was much courted by the Germans because he represented the prestige of French culture. Derain accepted an invitation to make an official visit to Germany in 1941, traveling with other French artists to Berlin to attend an exhibition by Nazi sculptor Arno Breker. The Nazi propaganda machine naturally made much of Derain's presence in Germany, and after the Liberation he was branded a collaborator and ostracized by many former supporters.
(66 cm x 82 cm, oil on canvas, c. 1905)
In the early 1940s Derain mainly worked in Donnemarie, returning to Chambourcy in 1944 after the liberation from the German occupation. In 1950 he produced illustrations for works by Saint Exupéry and for La Fontaine's 'Contes et Nouvelles'. During the following years, the artist created an extensive sculptural work.
A year before his death, he contracted an eye infection from which he never fully recovered. During that final year, Derain designed sets and costumes for the opera 'The Barber of Seville.'
He died in Garches, Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France, France in 1954 when he was struck by a moving vehicle. Most recently, his ouevre was honored with a large retrospective at the 'Musée d'Art Moderne' in Paris.
Today, paintings by Derain sell for as much as US$6 million. The London paintings were the subject of a major exhibition at the Courtauld Institute 2005–2006.
* * * * *