André Derain (1880-1954) started painting intensely in 1900 and spent ten years travelling between the Paris area, Collioure on the Spanish border, London and the Lot. In 1914, he joined the army as a gunner and stopped painting until the end of the war. The magnificent exhibition at Centre Pompidou comprises 70 paintings and drawings done during this decade.
The first striking work is the « Ball in Suresnes » where a very short soldier dances with a big lady. Derain had met Matisse in Paris and Maurice de Vlaminck in Chatou, where he grew up, in 1900, and they shared a studio. They concentrated on landscape paintings in the villages near Paris, Chatou, Suresnes, Le Pecq, along the Seine in pre-indutrial suburbs.
In 1905, he follows Matisse to Collioure, South of Perpignan, where Mediterranean light invaded his paintings. There are spectacular works from that time in the show including some of the harbor and boats. That summer, Derain will meet some of the dealers like Vollard and collectors befriended by Matisse.
Then come the views of the Thames in London with the famous bridge and sunny colors more reminiscent of the Mediterranean than of Great Britain.
His watercolors of “La Danse” also called “La Joie” come after Gauguin’s dance series and announce Matisse’s chef d’oeuvre. His “Paysage à Cassis” follows in 1907, with a striking abstract vision of pine trees in the South of France and a large series of portraits (until 1914) of which his self portrait is one of the most intense: it took 28 years to complete. Lucie Kahnweiler in 1913, his wife, and “Young woman in black” lent by the Hermitage museum are all fabulous.
This show is full of light and happiness, a nice contrast to the end of Derain’s life which was spent in an institution. (Centre Pompidou, until January 29)
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