An Unsatisfying Derain

At Mrs. Andriadis’ party, Jenkins sees Sir Magnus Donners standing “beneath an unsatisfying picture in the manner of Derain [BM 144/136 ]”

Andre Derain (1880-1954) was a French artist, present at the birth of Fauvism, friendly with Picasso and Matisse, inventive in his London cityscapes, but later reverting to neoclassicism. Which of these manners of Derain would be displayed to Jenkins dissatisfaction? As usual, we do not even know if Powell is thinking of a specific painting, imagining a fictious painting, or simply inducing us to think about the evolution of Modernism.

Derain’s reputation has waxed and waned. “Of all the major figures in the Ecole de Paris, André Derain’s reputation has sunk into the deepest trough. It is doubtful if it will ever again stand as high as it did between the two World Wars. (Edward Lucie-Smith, Lives of the Great 20-th Century Artists)”

The Bathers Andre  Derain, 1907 picture from Pinterest in collection of Museum of Modern Art, NY

The Bathers
Andre Derain, 1907
picture from Pinterest
in collection of Museum of Modern Art, NY

Derain painted The Bathers in 1907.  Derain and Matisse are credited with leading the Fauvist movement, named in a review of the Salon d’Automne exhibit in 1905. The Bathers has characteristically Fauvist wild brush strokes and dissonnant colors.

Charing Cross Bridge Andre Derain, 1906 National Gallery of Art, Washington photo in US public domain from Wikipedia; copyrighted in France until 2025

Charing Cross Bridge
Andre Derain, 1906
National Gallery of Art, Washington
photo in US public domain from Wikipedia; copyrighted in France until 2025

In 1906 the Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard sent Derain to London to paint views of the city. Charing Cross Bridge is just one of the 30 canvases in this series; these are some of his most appreciated works (see for example the exhibit Andre Derain: The London Paintings, 2005-6, The Courtauld Institute). He continued his Fauvist brush work but used welcoming energetic colors, producing a lighter, more vibrant view of London than in earlier famous cityscapes, like those of Monet and Whistler.

Derain served in World War I. After the war, his painting was more convservative.  He went to Italy in 1921 for the Raphael centenary, and in both his writing and his painting paid homage to classical artists. He still won awards; his first solo exhibit in London was at the Lefevre Gallery in 1928, where the painting might have been acquired.

Harlequin and Pierrot Andre Derain 1924 Musee de L'Orangerie, Paris photo from Wikipaintings by fair use work copyrighted in France
Harlequin and Pierrot
Andre Derain 1924
Musee de L’Orangerie, Paris
photo from Wikipaintings by fair use
work copyrighted in France

Derain’s later work had a mixed critical reception; for example, in 1931 Jacques-Emile Blanche wrote of this part of Derain’s career: “Youth has departed: what remains is a highly cerebral and rather mechanical art.” (from Andre Derain: Pour ou Contre quoted in “Derain, André” The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists. Ed Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press 2009 Oxford Reference Online. ) For example, his Harlequin and Pierrot (1924) shows a nostalgic sentimentality. By this time, Derain’s friend Picasso had become much less representational and more adventuresome in his series of Harlequins. We welcome our readers’ speculations about which style of Derain would have dissatisfied Jenkins.

Derain died in 1954, so his works are still under copyright in France; therefore, we show only thumbnails and encourage our readers to follow the links to better reproductions of the works.

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