Home page

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
André Derain (1880-1954)
Property of a Trust
André Derain (1880-1954)

Bords de rivière

Details
André Derain (1880-1954)
Bords de rivière
signed 'A Derain' (lower right)
oil on canvas
15 1/8 x 18 1/8 in. (38.4 x 46 cm.)
Painted circa 1904-1905
Provenance
Private collection, Paris.
Galerie Schmit, Paris (acquired from the above).
The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), London (acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, 10 April 1972.
Literature
M. Kellermann, André Derain: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1992, vol. I, p. 29, no. 45 (illustrated).
Sale room notice
Please note the amended provenance:
Private collection, Paris.
Galerie Schmit, Paris (acquired from the above).
The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), London (acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, 10 April 1972.

Please note that the estimate for this lot is $4,000,000-6,000,000.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter

Lot Essay

"Fauvism was our ordeal by fire… Colors became charges of dynamite."
André Derain
In André Derain’s Bords de rivière, a tree-lined section of the Seine has been transformed into a dazzling symphony of saturated color. Pools of flaming orange collide with strokes of cobalt blue, pink and cadmium yellow in the foreground, while the stretch of water appears as a passage of radiant white, the ripples described with daubs of paint that shimmer with light. An elegant row of trees lining the river bank runs through the center of this jewel-like composition; their trunks appearing like matchsticks ignited with plumes of yellow and green foliage that explode exuberantly in the middle of the composition. With color liberated from its centuries-old descriptive role and deployed instead according to its expressive and material qualities, Bords de rivière is a quintessential example of Fauvism, the movement that Derain, along with Matisse and Vlaminck pioneered throughout 1905 and 1906.
Painted circa 1904-1905, Bords de rivière dates from a period of incredible transformation in Derain’s career. Four years earlier, in the summer of 1900, he had met Vlaminck on a train from Paris to their home, Chatou, a picturesque suburb set on the Seine to the northwest of Paris. When their train derailed, the pair, both budding young artists, immediately struck up a friendship, and met the next day to paint. Soon they began sharing a studio in Chatou, painting side by side in the landscape and experimenting with an increasingly bold palette and thick, impastoed paint handling. “Each of us set up his easel”, Vlaminck recalled. “Derain facing Chatou…myself to one side, attracted by the poplars. Naturally I finished first. I walked over to Derain holding my canvas against my legs so that he couldn’t see it. I looked at his picture. Solid, skillful, powerful, already a Derain. ‘What about yours?’ he said. I spun my canvas around. Derain looked at it in silence for a minute, nodded his head and declared, ‘Very fine’. That was the starting point of all Fauvism” (Vlaminck, quoted in J. Elderfield, The “Wild Beasts: Fauvism and its affinities, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1976, p. 30).
This moment of intense artistic synergy was curtailed however in the autumn of 1901 when Derain began three years of mandatory military service. Finally, in September 1904, Derain returned to his native Chatou “full of energy and hope” (Vlaminck, quoted in J. Freeman, The Fauve Landscape, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1990, p. 64), as Vlaminck described, and the pair quickly picked up where they had left off, their partnership resuming their two-man ‘School of Chatou’. From this time onwards, Chatou as well as other towns dotted along the Seine, Nanterre, Marly-le-Roi, Carrières-sur-Seine, and Le Pecq, served as the artists’ primary inspiration, as they painted various aspects of the river and its banks.
With its verdant tree-lined river bank, Bords de rivière was likely painted in the environs of one of these rural towns. This area of France was not new to artists. Many of the Impressionists had painted in and around these suburbs: Monet and Renoir had worked side by side in nearby La Grenouillère, and Renoir had painted his famed Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-1881, The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.) in Chatou. Derain and Vlaminck were aware of this Impressionist legacy, and in some ways followed in their footsteps, painting similar scenes of the riverbank, bridges and surrounding vistas; Bords de rivière calls to mind Monet’s riverside scenes of Argenteuil, for example. Yet unlike the Impressionists who were visitors to this area, Derain and Vlaminck were painting with a deep familiarity and knowledge of their surroundings, a fact that enabled Derain to portray the landscape with an ever-increasing radicality.
By the beginning of 1905, at around the time that he painted Bords de rivière, Derain was already experimenting with often tightly cropped compositions and novel viewpoints, taking this traditional Impressionist subject matter and depicting it in a radically new way. Like Vlaminck, he worked with an impulsive spontaneity, applying daubs and slabs of paint directly, using this to structure his compositions rather than traditional modes of perspective or tonal modelling. In the development of this new, incendiary mode of painting Derain was at this time looking to Gauguin; indeed, the curving bands of color that constitute the foreground of Bords de rivière are reminiscent of the Post-Impressionist’s sinuous symbolist-inspired landscape compositions. In addition, the sense of immediacy and the physicality of Derain’s technique, witnessed particularly in the increasingly broken brushstrokes seen in the present work, are more akin to the landscapes of Van Gogh, another important example for the artist at this time. Both Derain and Vlaminck would have visited the large retrospective of the Dutch artist held at the Salon des Indépendants in the spring of 1905.
It was also during the spring that Matisse came to Chatou to visit Derain, whom he had first met six years earlier at the Académie Carrière in Paris. Matisse, who was similarly experimenting with increasingly bold, unnaturalistic color applied with a Divisionist technique, was stunned by these artists’ work, finding in their latest canvases a new conception of landscape painting that was akin to his concurrent explorations: “I went to Chatou two or three times to see Derain and one day he took me to see his friend. Vlaminck insisted on absolutely pure colors, on a vermillion that was absolutely vermillion, which obliged him to intensify the other parts of the painting accordingly”. “I was unsettled”, he recalled, “I was not able to sleep that night” (Vlaminck, quoted in J. Freeman, Fauves, exh. cat., The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1995, p. 16).
Just a few months later, Matisse invited Derain to join him in Collioure, a remote and rural fishing village in the south of France. “I could not insist too much to persuade you that for you to make a trip here would be absolutely necessary for your work”, he implored his younger friend. “You would find the most advantageous conditions and your work will reap some benefits here. That’s why I repeat again, come…” (ibid., p. 200). Derain did not need to be asked twice and arrived there at the beginning of July. Collioure, its undiscovered beauty, intense, all-enveloping heat, blazing light and heightened colors, hit both artists with the force of a revelation. It was here, under the dazzling light of the south, that Fauvism truly took flight. Matisse and Derain spurred the other on as they painted the landscape, and each other, with a new, untrammeled and direct technique: constructing compositions with vibrant color alone. Works such as Matisse’s Collioure (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg) are created with the same fiery palette and bold paint handling as Derain’s own paintings of this time.
It was the light of the south that captivated Derain more than anything else. Working under the glaring southern sun, so different from the soft, grey light of the north, Derain realized that the idea of shadow, understood in the traditional sense, was redundant. Instead, shadows appeared in the same way as highlights: as areas of luminous color, free from tonal gradations. It is this radical artistic concept that underpins Bords de rivière. It is solely with passages of color that Derain has inferred a sense of pictorial depth, the radiant blue streaks in the foreground and surrounding the trees on the left of the scene taking the place of traditional tonal modulations. In addition, Derain has left the horizontal band of the river untouched, using mosaic-like dashes of luminous turquoise to serve as indicators of the reflections on top. This technique was a frequent characteristic of Derain’s Collioure works and can be seen in paintings such as Bateaux dans le port, Collioure (Merzbacher Foundation) and Le Port de Collioure (Musée d’Art Moderne, Troyes), both of which either prefigured or were followed by Bords de rivière, a composition that sings with vitality and electric color, the qualities that define the greatest of Derain’s Fauve landscapes.

More from Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

View All
View All