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André Derain
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Chatou, France
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
Garches, France
One of the Fauves and an early Cubist, after World War I French artist André Derain turned to Primitivism inspired by African art and to realism, inspired by the Classical traditions of Western art. A prolific artist, he created over 2,300 paintings, some 150 sculptures, over 200 prints and illustrations for 21 books and designed theatrical productions. Derain was born in Chatou, a town on the western outskirts of Paris, in 1880. While studying in Paris to be an engineer, he began painting around 1895 and in 1898 quit engineering to enter the Académie Camillo to study art under Eugène Carrière (1849-1906), where he met Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Derain also became friends with Georges Rouault (1871-1958) and in 1900 met Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958), which whom he shared a studio in Chatou. After military service from 1901 to 1904, he returned to Chateau and again shared a studio with Vlaminck. Exhibitions of the works of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Paul Signac (1863-1935) and visits to Paris’s Ethnographic Museum all influenced his art. Matisse convinced Derain to exhibit at the spring Salon des Indépendants in 1905; of the eight paintings Derain showed, four were sold. After spending the summer painting with Matisse in Collioure, on the Mediterranean coast near the Spanish border, both artists returned to Paris and exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in a room that included works by Rouault, Vlaminck and the Russian Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). A critic described the paintings as an “orgy of pure color” and called the artists “fauves” (wild beasts). Art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1867-1939) then bought the contents of Derain’s studio, said to be 89 paintings and 80 drawings, for a large sum, which financed Derain’s trips to London in 1905 and 1906. In 1907 his friend Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) introduced him to Alice Princet, who later became his companion. In 1908 Derain destroyed much of his work. His style evolved towards Cubism, particularly in the landscapes he painted. His media included woodcuts, reliefs in wood (notably a bed covered with carvings) and sculptures in stone, as well as oil paintings, and he began collecting African art. Derain’s work was shown in Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne, London, Munich, Paris, Prague and Moscow, and at New York’s 1903 Armory Show. Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979), a German art dealer in Paris, had began buying Derain’s art and became his exclusive dealer in 1912. With the outbreak of war in 1914, he was recalled into the French Army, serving in Champagne, Somme and Verdun. During the war his first one-man exhibition was mounted in Paris by Paul Guillaume (1891-1934). Discharged in 1919, Derain spent the summer in London designing scenery and costumes for a ballet production by Sergei Diaghilev’s (1872-1929) Ballets Russes. He resumed his customary summer visits to southern France. One-man exhibitions of his work appeared in Berlin, Munich, New York and Stockholm in 1922 and 1923. His art moved away from his pre-war styles toward realism, much to the surprise of his artistic contemporaries. He illustrated books, designed theatrical sets and created lithographs as well as paintings. He ended his relationship with Kahnweiler in 1924 and engaged Guillaume as his dealer. Derain was financially secure and began collecting houses. In 1924 he bought a house in the Fontainebleau Forest, in 1928 moved into a large house in Paris built to his design, and next bought a château in the countryside north-west of Paris. In 1930 an exhibition originating at New York’s Knoedler Gallery moved to the Cincinnati Art Museum. Derain’s first museum exhibition. In 1935 Derain sold his three houses and bought a house in Chambourcy, north-west of Paris, where he lived for the rest of his life. With the occupation of Paris by the German Army in 1940, Derain and his family fled to Normandy and then central France, but returned to Chambourcy to find that his house was occupied by the German Army. Pressure from the Gestapo forced him to take a trip to Germany with other artists in 1941, which the Germans used for propaganda. Derain safely returned to Paris for the duration of the war, and managed to create illustrations for an edition of Rabelais’“Pantagruel,” several paintings, and a series of color woodcuts. He was able to reclaim his house at Chambourcy late in 1944. After the war he was accused of collaboration with the Germans due to his 1941 German trip. Although he was cleared, he thereafter refused to have any contact with the French government, whether participation in exhibitions or the sale of art works. Derain continued to create art, including ceramic and metal sculptures, to design sets and costumes for ballets, and illustrate books. Weakened by a stroke in early 1954, he was struck by a car near Chambourcy as he attempted to repair trouble with his own car. He died in September in a clinic in nearby Garches. (TNB 3/2015) Selected bibliography: Koella, Rudolf. André Derain. Exhibition catalog. Valencia: Institut Valencià d’Art Modern; Lausanne: Fondation de l’Hermitage, 2002. Monod-Fontaine, Isabelle. André Derain: an outsider in French art. Exhibition catalog. Copenhagen: Statens Museum for Kunst, 2007.