ANDRÉ DERAIN (1880-1954)
ANDRÉ DERAIN (1880-1954)
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ANDRÉ DERAIN (1880-1954)

Baigneuses dansantes

ANDRÉ DERAIN (1880-1954)
Baigneuses dansantes
signed 'derain' (lower right)
gouache and pencil on paper
18 7⁄8 x 24 ¾ in. (48 x 62.7 cm.)
Executed circa 1905-1906
Perls Galleries, New York.
Loup Gallery, Chicago.
Madame Weill, Besançon.
Harcourts Gallery, San Francisco (no. XG 2054 X), by 1996.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 17 November 1998, lot 303.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Basel, Kunstmuseum Basel, Matisse, Derain, and their friends: The Parisian Avantgarde 1904-1908, September 2023 - January 2024, n.p. (illustrated pl. 210; with incorrect medium).
Further Details
Michel Kellerman has confirmed the authenticity of this work in 1982.

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Lot Essay

The simplification of colour and form – as distilled in Baigneuses dansantes – are key themes that preoccupied the French Avant-Garde artists at the start of the twentieth century. In the summer of 1905, working side-by-side in the small fishing village of Collioure in the South of France, André Derain and Henri Matisse liberated their compositions with bold brushstrokes and blindingly vibrant colour, giving their ‘wild’ style of painting its name – Fauvism.

Having already achieved notoriety for the unbridled use of colour, here Derain limits his palette to just four: the primaries - red, yellow and blue – as well as green. Derain himself recalled his theory of applying colour whilst at Collioure – adding each colour at a time until they created an ‘accord’. Aside from achieving harmony with colour, in the present work Derain is freeing the composition of any rigidity and perspective, infusing the work with sinuous and flowing lines. He wilfully disregards shadow and tone as well as any classical understanding of perspectival or spatial recession.

The fluidity of the brushstrokes is also perfectly in balance with the negative space, which takes up a large section of the composition. The application of pigments, ranging from short dabs of the brush to thick saturated marks, reminds us that the image is no longer about illusionism, but is a reinstatement of the physicality of the underlying sheet as a surface that itself emanates light.

Celestial blue and emerald green create the impression of a pastoral landscape, and out of thickly applied gouache outlines that trace the faint pencil underdrawing emerge three female nudes. Derain combines two popular historical themes – bathing and dancing – infusing the dynamism of a group dance with the peace and intimacy of a bathing scene. The artist had made his first attempt at depicting bathers in 1904, but his visit to the Colonial exhibition in Marseilles in the summer of 1906 where he saw a performance by the entourage of the Cambodian King Sissowath was a known source of inspiration for his dance series.

The figures in the present work are depicted in varying degrees of motion in natural progression as the eye moves from left to right – flowing from calm and serene to bold and vibrant. Indeed, the human body in dance beautifully and organically illustrates the flexibility, elasticity and freedom that the artist sought to imbue into his work. Derain’s drawings and gouaches in the years of 1905-1906, including the present work, were a crescendo of experimentation on the theme of the figure in motion, which reached its pinnacle in La Danse (Private collection).

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