The grand exhibition of Andre Derain at Centre Pompidou in Paris is a landmark show the scale of which has not been seen since the 1994-1995 exhibition at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
Derain had a profound influence on me as a painter and is a constant source of inspiration for my photographic practice. Born in 1880, Derain met his fellow painter friends Vlamink, with whom he shared a studio in Chatou, a suburb of Paris, and Matisse while studying at Academie Carrierre and later Academie Julian. Matisse later persuaded Derain’s parents that painting was a worthy occupation for their son, who was studying engineering.
The exhibition was organized in a structured way exploring each significant period of Derain’s career. The painter’s passion for photography and even a minor role in an early cinematic production by Jean Renoir were featured alongside his major paintings.
The several periods presented at Centre Pompidou include painings made along the banks of the Seine in Chatou (1904) when Derain painted together with his friend Maurice Vlamink, exploring strong contrasts and bright colours. The real gem of this exhibition is a collection from the ‘fauve’ summer in Collioure in 1905, when Derain painted the views of the picturesque coastal town of Collioure with Matisse. Later that year the vibrant primary colours: yellows, reds and blues of the two artists were named ‘wild’ or ‘fauve’ by the French critic Louis Vauxcelles, who reviewed their show at Salon d’Automne of 1905. Derain characterised this period: ‘we become intoxicated with color, with words that speak of color, and with the sun that makes colors brighter’.
Not many people know that two other future giants of the modernist art, Alexey von Jawlensky and Wassily Kandinsky also exhibited at the same Salon d’Automne in 1905, their paintings being not less wild in any way than the works by Derain and Matisse. Matisse and Jawlensky met at this landmark exhibition. Several important sources exist that help to understand Derains’s interaction with other artists and his professional growth, namely Derain’s letters to Matisse, Vlamink and his wife, Alice.
The other important periods of Derain’s career represented at the exhibition included the London series of 1906, L’Estaque series of 1906, Cassis series of 1907, the bathers series of 1908, the Dance composition of 1906 and an incredible late composition inspired by the mythological stories.
The Colliour series of paintings allegedly contained over 30 works, however only around 10 have been presented at Pompidou. The fishing boats that are no longer to be seen in Collioure, the cotton sails, the iconic landmarks of the Church of Our Lady of the Angels the mountain views, the olive trees all come to life in transposed colours of Derain creating a parallel reality and a strong emotional resonance in the viewer’s minds.
One of the most incredible experiences of the exhibition was to see a large painting measuring 175 x 225cm. Painted in 1906, in the same year when Matisse created his ‘Joy of Life’ but three years earlier than the famous ‘Dance‘ made for Schukine mansion, this painting speaks about Derain’s fascination with non-European art, the Polynesian paintings by Gauguin and Derain’s discovery of the strong primary colours: the reds, the blues and the yellows, accompanied by equally strong greens. The immersive experience of this painting is a sensation that keeps its presence even after one finished exploring the painting.
Derain’s work has been particularly important as a source of inspiration for my ‘Magical Realism’ series: http://stanislav.photography/portfolio/magical-realism I transformed the principles of colour transposition Derain used in painting to my photographic practice. I will be exhibiting these works at INDEX 2018 in Dubai between 26 and 29 March 2018.
Debray C. et al (2017) André Derain – 1904-1914, the radical decade. Catalogue, Centre George Pompidou
Labrusse, R., van Claerbergen, E.V., Wright B. (2005) André Derain: The London Paintings, Courtauld
Page, S., Adelsbach K., (1994) André Derain, Le Peintre du Trouble Moderne, Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris
Andre Derain (1906) Dance