Andre Derain
Biography of French Fauvist Painter of the Paris School.

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Charing Cross bridge I (1906)
Whitney Museum, New York.
One of Derain's most colourful
expressionist paintings.

For other works similar to those
produced by Andre Derain, see:
Greatest 20th-Century Paintings.

Andre Derain (1880-1954)


Early Life and Studies
Colourism: Origins of Fauvism
Fauvism At the Salon d'Automne, 1905
New Artists Association
Gothic Period and Set Design
World War II

NOTE: For analysis of works by Fauvist painters like Andre Derain,
please see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).

By Andre Derain. One of the artist's
most famous landscape paintings.

See: Modern Artists.

For details about the colour wheel,
colour mixing theory, pigments and
palettes, see: Colour in Painting.


One of the famous painters of the Ecole de Paris, Andre Derain was a leading member of the short-lived colourist movement known as Fauvism. Along with Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958), he was one of the most important Fauvist painters, and a key figure in modern French painting. A member of Picasso's circle in Montmartre, Derain's patrons included the dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939), Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979) and Count Etienne de Beaumont, among many others. He was also an illustrator, set designer and sculptor. Although he painted until his 70s, he is best known for his post-Impressionism, notably his brightly coloured fauvist pictures, like his views of London (eg. Charing Cross Bridge, London, c.1905, MOMA; The Pool of London, 1906, Tate Collection; Big Ben, London, 1906, Tate Collection), L'Age d'Or (1906, Museum of Modern Art Tehran) and Portrait of Matisse (1905, Tate Modern, London). His most famous sculpture is the sandstone stauette Crouching Man (1907).

NOTE: For the influence of Andre Derain on 20th century classicism, see: Classical Revival in modern art (c.1900-30).

For top creative practitioners, see:
Best Artists of All Time.
For the greatest view painters, see:
Best Landcape Artists.
For the greatest portraitists
see: Best Portrait Artists.
For the greatest genre-painting, see:
Best Genre Painters.


Early Life and Studies

Derain was born in 1880, just outside of Paris in the Ile-de-France. At the age of 15, he went to Paris to study engineering at the Academie Camillio. However, he spent more time in the museums and art studios of the city than in his own classes, and he soon rejected engineering for a career as an artist, and attended painting classes under Eugene Carriere (1849-1906). Carriere was a French Symbolist artist of the Fin de Siecle period, and close friend of the sculptor Auguste Rodin. Carriere's work was best known for it's brown monochrome palette, which in future years would influence many artists, including Picasso (the monochrome style was reflected in Picasso's Rose and Blue Period). It was during these early years that Derain developed the habit of visiting the Louvre art museum, where he developed a love for the work of the Old Masters, and made copies of their paintings. Throughout his career he never lost his interest in traditional art practices. While studying with Carriere, Derain met Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and in 1900 he shared a studio with Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958). De Vlaminck was primarily a landscapist, and encouraged Derain to paint landscapes.

Colourism: Origins of Fauvism

In 1901, Derain was hugely impressed by the Vincent Van Gogh retrospective at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris, after which his interest in colour grew dramatically. Unfortunately however, his artistic studies were put on hold between 1901 and 1904 when he was conscripted into the army. When the War was over, he determined to forge a career in art and attended the Julian Academy. He mixed with other artists including Albert Marquet (1875-1947), Henri Manguin (1874-1949), Georges Rouault (1871-1958) and Charles Camoin (1879-1965) who were themselves inspired by Gustave Moreau (1826-98). Moreau was a controversial teacher at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts who encouraged his students to use the expressive potency of pure colour pigments, and thus played an early influence over the future Fauvists. Other Fauves included the Le Havre painters Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) and Othon Friesz (1879-1949).

Fauvism At the Salon d'Automne 1905

In 1905, Derain accompanied Matisse to the south of France. Here, in the small fishing port of Collioure, both artists produced powerful canvases, applying bright, pure colours straight from the tube, and leaving whole areas of unprimed canvas bare. In these works they sought to express the simplicity and rawness of life in the Mediterranean, which was then a region still relatively untouched by outsiders. Their highly innovative paintings were exhibited at the Salon d'Automne later that year. Also exhibiting were Rouault, Manguin, Camoin and de Vlaminck. It was through this exhibition that the group received their name, when the art critic Louis Vauxcelles sneered that their work was "Donatello au milieu des fauves!" ('Donatello among wild beasts'). He was contrasting the high-renaissance sculptures that shared the room with them. He was also derisory about their brush strokes, and their use of unnatural colour. Indeed, the Fauves were the target of many snide comments and mockery, but began to gain respect when major art buyers started adding fauvist works to their collections. In 1905, the art dealer Ambroise Vollard purchased the entire contents of Derain's studio, and in 1906 Derain produced his most famous Fauvist painting Big Ben, London. In contract to Claude Monet's impressionist version, Derain used bright blues and vivid yellows and greens. Where Monet is subtle, Derain's screams for attention.

Derain's fauvist paintings owe a considerable debt to both Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), artists whose work Derain had seen in major shows in Paris. At the same time, he was influenced by Neo-Impressionism, a style in which a painting is made up of small dots of colour; these fuse in the eye of the viewer when seen from a distance. Derain became familiar with this style through the work of Paul Signac (1863-1935), a major artist whom Matisse had befriended and visited in the southern French village of Saint-Tropez. For more about the contribution of Andre Derain to expressionism, see: History of Expressionist Painting (c.1880-1930).

By 1907 Derain, like the Cubist painters George Braque (1882-1963) and Pablo Picasso, was also showing considerable interest in primitive art forms, such as African sculpture, which could be seen in the ethnographical museum in Paris. His sandstone sculpture, Crouching Man (1907), for example, rejected traditional modeling in favour of carving and was highly influential in the development of modern sculptural techniques.


In 1907, Derain signed a contract with Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (Picasso's dealer). Through Kahnweiler, Derain sold works in Germany and Russia, and exhibited in the United States, acquiring enough financial security to marry his girlfriend Alice, with whom he settled in Montmartre. During this period he experimented with several mediums, including stone sculpture. He moved to Montmartre and became friendly with other important artists of his time, including Modigliani and Picasso. While in Montmartre, his colour palette shifted to more muted tones reflecting the influence of Cubism, in particular Juan Gris; and also Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne. He also explored printmaking, and worked with woodcuts, lithographs and etchings in the Primitivism style, illustrating the first book of prose by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918).

New Artists Association

By 1908, Fauvism, a short lived movement, was over. The post-Impressionist painters at its core were already moving on to other developments. In 1910 Derain exhibited works at the Neue Kunstlervereinigung in Munich (New Artists Association), an association founded by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), and in 1912 he took part in the Secessionist Der Blaue Reiter group exhibition and, in 1913, at the Armory Show in New York, along with the Russian Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), the Germans Franz Marc (1880-1916), August Macke (1887-1914), Gabriele Munter (1887-1914), Albert Bloch (1881-1961) and the American painter Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956).

Gothic Period and Set Design

Between 1911 and 1914, classic art forms began to appear in Derain's paintings, with undertones of Gothic influences. In 1914, World War I broke out, and he was again enlisted for service. In 1916, while still in service he created some illustrations for Mont de Piete by the surrealist Andre Breton, and was given his first solo exhibition by Paul Guillaume. After being released from military service in 1919, he established himself as a Classicist, designing a number of ballet sets for Sergei Diaghilev and Les Ballets Russes. Later (in 1947) he also designed for the Royal Ballet in London, in particular their ballet Mam'zelle Angot. His reputation continued to soar between the wars. He had one-man exhibitions in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, London, Cincinnati and New York. In 1928 he was awarded the coveted Carnegie Prize for Art, issued by the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. Derain's paintings of later years are less well known; he focused primarily on still lifes and landscapes, drawings and lithographs.

World War II

From 1935 Derain lived in the countryside of Chambourcy, working in near isolation, although he also maintained an apartment in Paris. During the War, he was invited to Germany on an official visit, which was exploited by the Nazi propaganda machine. After the Liberation he was branded a traitor and ostracized by many. He died just outside of Paris in 1954. In subsequent years, Derain has been recognised as one of the most influential of French expressionist painters. Today, as one of the great 20th century painters, his paintings fetch millions of dollars at auctions around the world.


Famous works by Derain, which can be seen in the best art museums throughout the world, include:

- The Harbour of Collioure (1905)
- Portrait of Henri Matisse (1905)
- Fishing Boats, Collioure (c.1905)
- Charing Cross Bridge, London (c.1905)
- The Pool of London (1906)
- Big Ben, London (1906)
- Bacchic Dance (1906)
- L'Estaque (1906)
- Bridge over the Riou (1906)
- The Seine at Chatou (1906)
- L'Age d'Or (1906)
- Madame Derain in Green (1907)
- Landscape near Cassis (1907)
- Bathers (1907)
- Madame Derain in a White Shawl (c. 1919-20)
- Torso (c.1921)
- Landscape near Barbizon (c.1922)
- Still Life (c.1938-43)
- The Painter and his Family (c.1939)

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