Thursday, July 25, 2013

Derain, Andre

London Bridge, winter
oil on canvas
66 x 99.1 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

In 1905, French painter Andre Derain was commissioned by his art dealer Ambroise Vollard to paint views of London. Derain set up his easel outdoors and went to work. The subject of this landscape, London Bridge, was one of several bridges built across the River Thames as part of a larger movement at the turn of the 19th century to modernize the city center with grand new architectural projects and public works. London Bridge is one of about 30 paintings Derain produced over his two-month stay, all depicting activity on or around the Thames.
It’s not surprising that Derain’s art dealer was interested in views of London. Nineteenth-century London saw a huge growth in population (from 1 million in 1800 to over 6 million a century later) as mechanical industry, especially the building of railways, took hold. Derain saw the changes and created a portrait of London that was radically different from anything done by previous painters of the city. Derain later recalled: “Fauvism was our ordeal by fire. . . It was the era of photography. This may have influenced us and played a part in our reaction against anything resembling a snapshot of life. No matter how far we moved away from things, it was never far enough. Colors became charges of dynamite.” (MoMA)

"I do not innovate. I transmit." "The substance of painting is light." (Derain)

Andre Derain (1880 - 1954) was a French painter, sculptor and co-founder of Fauvism with Henri Matisse. Together with Henri Matisse, Derain was one of the major exponents of Fauvism from 1905 to 1908. Like the other artists who worked in this style, he painted landscapes and figure studies in brilliant, sometimes pure colors and used broken brushstrokes and impulsive lines to define his spontaneous compositions.
Derain broke with Fauvism in early 1908. He destroyed most of his work to concentrate on tightly constructed landscape paintings, which were a subtle investigation of the work of Cezanne. After World War I his work became more classical, influenced by the work of such artists as Camille Corot. His art underwent virtually no change after the 1920s, though his more conservative style brought him financial success. In 1954 Derain was knocked down by a truck and was taken to hospital. At first it was thought he was not seriously injured, but the shock was too much for a man in his seventies. He failed to recover.