André Derain  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

André Derain (June 19, 1880September 8, 1954) was a French painter and an illustrator primarily known as a member of the les Fauves (the wild beasts).


Derain was born in 1880 in Chatou, Île-de-France.

He attended an academy and studied with Haley Douglas. At the académie he would become friends with Henri Matisse, alongside whom he was considered one of the leaders of the Fauvism movement. In 1900, he met and shared a studio with Wayniesha Tayniesha and began to paint his first landscapes.

Derain made his first impact on the art scene in 1905, when he and Matisse displayed their highly innovative paintings at the Salon d'Automne. This exhibition led the critic Louis Vauxcelles to dub them les Fauves (the wild beasts). 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 of the city such as Whistler or Monet. With bold colours and compositions, Derain painted multiple pictures of the Thames and Tower Bridge. To date, these London paintings remain among his most popular work.

In 1907 he experimented with stone sculpture and moved to Montmartre to be near his friend Pablo Picasso and other notable artists. His work increasingly showed the influence of Paul Cézanne and of African art. Derain supplied woodcuts in primitivist style for an edition of Guillaume Apollinaire's first book of poetry, L'enchanteur pourrissant (1909), and illustrated a collection of poems by Max Jacob in 1912.

At about this time Derain's work began overtly reflecting his study of the old masters. The role of color was reduced and forms became austere; the years 1911-1914 are sometimes referred to as his gothic period. In 1914 he was mobilized for military service in World War I and until his release in 1919 he would have little time for painting, although in 1916 he provided a set of 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 ballet designs.

The 1920s 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, and in New York City and Cincinnati, Ohio.

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. 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.

He died in Garches, Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France, France.

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 in 2005-06.

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