By Christian Franzen
André Derain was born on June 10th 1880 just outside of Paris. He began studying painting on his own in the countrysides of France at the age of 15. Three years later he began a formal art education under the tutelage of Eugène Carrière. During his time with Carrière, Derain became friends with fellow painter Henri Matisse.
His artistic pursuits were put on hold from 1901-1904 while he fulfilled his military survive requirement. Once discharged from the military Matisse met with Derain and his parents to persuade them for the continuation of Derainn's art education. As a result Derain enrolled in the Académie Julian that same year.
The next year of 1905 would prove to be the most important year in Derain's life. In the summer of 1905 Derain accompanied friend and mentor Henri Matisse on a trip to the south of France. This trip was a pivotal experience for both artists whose collaboration and experimentation would rock the 20th century art scene. In the fall of 1905 Matisse, along with Derain and several of their friends held a far out exhibition at the prestigious Salon d'Autome. Exhibited were this groups new paintings utilizing bold saturated color and pattern. The use of overwhelming bold colors led famed critic Louis Vauxcelles to say the paintings looked like wild beasts or Les Fauve; and just like that Fauvism was born.
Following the ground breaking exhibit Derain went to London on a commission to create a series of paintings highlighting the city. He returned with a total of 30 paintings radically different than any other portrayal of the city previously seen. This series of paintings has become his most famous set of paintings.
"The Last Supper of Jesus" (1911)
In 1907, art dealer Daniel- Henry Kahnweiler purchased everything Derain had available making him a wealthy man. He then moved to Montmarte with many other of his artist friends where he continued to paint and engage in artistic endeavors with friends Pablo Picasso and American writer Gertrude Stein. Along with 1907 came the introduction of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso's analytical cubism. Inspired by this Derain's paintings began to become more structural and the palette became increasingly muted.
Derain experimented with cubism and continuing his fauvism style, but the most drastic change to his paintings happened during WW1. In this new " Gothic Period", Derain began painting in the style of the old masters. Using reduced color, critical drawing, and glazes he created paintings reminiscent of the Neo-Classical days of French painters. He served in a majority of the war but upon return was praised for his new classical transcendence. Derain had reached the peak of his success and was highly prized for his return to classicalism. In the 1920's, now seen as an upholder of the traditional way of painting Derain was granted much more exposure to the masses than when he was an avant-garde painter. He won the Carnegie Prize in 1928 and was given numerous exhibitions globally.
"Young Girl" (1925)
Much later during the occupation of France during WWII Derain excepted an invitation from the Nazi party to view a exhibition for officially Nazi endorsed Arno Breker in Berlin. The Nazi's used this visit as propaganda to discourage occupied France. After the war he was labeled a traitor and ostracized. He died as a result of being hit by a car in 1954.