Nu debout de face, c. 1937–40
b. 1880, Chatou, Yvelines, France
d. 1954, Garches, Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France, France
One of the founding members of Fauvism, André Derain was a French painter, sculptor, printmaker, and designer. He began his artistic training in 1898 while studying engineering at the Académie Camillo. In between his regular studies, he took painting classes with the Symbolist painter Eugène Carrière, where he met Henri Matisse. Derain developed his early style alongside Matisse and Maurice de Vlaminck, who he shared a studio with in Chatou.
After serving in the military from 1901 to 1904, with the help of Matisse, Derain fully committed to painting and attended the Académie Julian. He spent the summer of 1905 painting with Matisse in Collioure, where he began to implement a pointillist technique by applying pure colors straight from the tube onto the canvas. Alongside Matisse and Vlaminck, Derain showed his colorful, innovative work at the Salon d’Autonme in 1905, earning the description of “les fauves,” or wild beasts by the critic Louis Vauxcelles. The selection of paintings, and the response from critics, marked the beginning of the Fauvist movement. In 1906, the respected art dealer Abroise Vollard commissioned Derain to travel to London to paint a series of landscapes of the city. He returned with 30 paintings, boldly composed of vibrant colors that marked the height of his Fauvist period.
In 1907, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler purchased Derain’s entire studio, effectively granting him financial stability and freedom to experiment with new aesthetic interests. During this time, he moved to Montmartre and befriended the intellectual crowd of Montmartre, including Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. He shared with them his new interest in Primitivism and sculpture, and adopted a softer palette influenced by Cubism and the work of Paul Cézanne. He exhibited with the Der Blaue Reiter group in Germany in 1912, and at the Armory Show in New York the following year.
After mobilization during World War I, Derain adopted a neoclassical style that was highly influenced by Old Masters, Claude Lorrain, and 17th century Dutch and Flemish still lifes. His conservative style brought him financial success, allowing him to exhibit internationally and enjoy high profile commissions, such as one with Sergei Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes. In the 1920s, André Derain was considered one of the best representatives of French painting, and in 1928 he was awarded the Carnegie Prize. His participation in a visit to Germany with a group of French artists in 1941, however, sullied his reputation and career.
Today, Derain’s works are held in the collections of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Tate Gallery in London, among others.