André Derain (1880-1954)

André Derain was an early 20th century French artist who played a major role in the development of Fauvism and Cubism

André Derain, Les arbres (The Trees), 1906

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André Derain had a major role in the development of two of the most significant artistic movements of the early-20th century. He, Henri Matisse, and Maurice de Vlaminck were responsible for generating works with a totally new style, which would become Fauvism, and his association with Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque was integral to early Cubism.

Life and education

André Derain, 1903

Derain was born in 1880 in Chatou, Yvelines, Île-de-France, just outside Paris. In 1895 Derain began to study on his own, contrary to claims that meeting Vlaminck or Matisse began his efforts to paint; Derain and Matisse worked together through the summer of 1905 and later that year displayed their highly innovative paintings at the Salon d’Automne. In 1907 art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler purchased Derain’s entire studio, granting Derain financial stability. He experimented with stone sculpture and moved to Montmartre to be near his friend Pablo Picasso and other noted artists. At Montmartre, Derain began to shift from the brilliant Fauvist palette to more muted tones, showing the influence of Cubism and Paul Cézanne.

Derain in Nazi’s propaganda

During the German occupation of France in World War II, Derain lived 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 to attend a Nazi exhibition, so Derain’s presence in Germany was used effectively by Nazi propaganda, and after the Liberation he was branded a collaborator and ostracized by many former supporters.

Derain as Fauvist

André Derain, La jetée à L’Estaque, 1906

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Derain was one of the founders of the Fauve artistic movement along with Matisse. Although fascinated by the world around him, a popular subject among contemporary artists, he wanted to give a much greater appreciation to the expressionistic qualities of paint. His works are characterized by dense, vibrant brushworks that attract the viewer’s attention as much as the subject itself.

After the Fauvism period

André Derain, Still life with dead game, 1928

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Derain worked for a few years in a stylized form of Cubism, but by the 1920s his paintings of nudes, still lifes, and portraits had become increasingly Neoclassical, and the spontaneity and impulsiveness that had distinguished his earlier work gradually disappeared. His art underwent virtually no change after the 1920s, though his more conservative style brought him financial success.

Henri Matisse, potrait of André Derain, 1905

He died in Garches, Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France, France in 1954 when he was struck by a moving vehicle.


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