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

La Danse

ANDRÉ DERAIN (1880-1954)
La Danse
signed 'a Derain' (lower right)
gouache and watercolor over pencil on paper
19 1/2 x 25 1/2 in. (49.4 x 64.4 cm.)
Painted in 1905-1906
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Robert de Galéa, Paris (by descent from the above).
Martin Fabiani, Paris.
Private collection, France.
Galerie Cazeau-Béraudière, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owners, 2004.
S. Page and F. Marquet, André Derain: Le peintre du "trouble moderne," Paris, 1995, p. 294, no. 193 (illustrated in color).
Marseilles, Musée Cantini, Quelque chose de plus que la couleur: le dessin fauve 1900-1908, June-September 2002, p. 224, no. 219 (illustrated in color).
Further details
The Comité André Derain has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Lot Essay

This free and lively gouache is a study for La Danse, the monumental and ambitious canvas that André Derain painted in 1906. By this time, the incendiary colors of Fauvism had taken the art world by storm and propelled the impetuous young Derain and his more seasoned compatriot Henri Matisse to the forefront of the Parisian avant-garde. “Fauvism was our ordeal by fire,” Derain later wrote about this first real revolution in the development of twentieth-century art. “Colors became charges of dynamite. They were expected to discharge light” (quoted in D. Sutton, André Derain, London, 1959, p. 20).
On a visit to the Colonial Exhibition in Marseilles during the summer of 1906, Derain witnessed a performance by dancers from the retinue of the Cambodian King Sissowath, an experience which proved revelatory to the artist, fueling his imagination and sparking the creation of a series of works which take dance as their central theme. A surge of interest in non-Western dance had swept through France at the turn of the 20th Century, heralding the development of a new, dramatically expressive language of movement rooted in dance as a means of worship, ecstasy and emotional release. It was this liberated, uninhibited, expressive form of dance that Derain set out to capture in his watercolors, drawings and oils over the course of 1906, which culminated in his large scale oil painting La Danse (Kellerman, no. 374).
In La Danse a cast of anonymous figures frolic through a timeless Arcadian landscape, each character lost in the rhythm of the dance, their bodies cast into strange poses and movements that represent their own individual response to the music. There is no choreography here, no set pattern of steps to follow – they are consumed by the energy of the dance alone, and they each react in their own personal way. While some figures are partially clothed, others are naked, enhancing the impression that this is an ancient ritual that Derain has stumbled upon. The free, fluid brushstrokes that Derain uses to capture the scene, add to the spontaneous, flowing, atmosphere of the dance, as if the figures may begin to move of their own accord at any moment and swirl across the page.
The most cited inspiration for La Danse is Paul Gauguin. In 1905, Derain and Matisse visited George-Daniel de Monfreid’s collection of Gauguin paintings, and the frieze-like nature of his Tahitian canvases is reflected in the composition of La Danse. “In La Danse the influence of Gauguin is the most dominant and the least disguised” writes Susan Ball, “The large areas of bold flat colors, emphasis on surface decoration, use of non-local color, exotic landscape, and the often recurring seated figure leaning on one arm which is frequently seen in Gauguin’s oeuvre.’ (S.L. Ball, “The Early Figural Painting of André Derain, 1905-1910, A Re-Evaluation,“ Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, Munich and Berlin, 1980, vol. I, p. 85.) Eugène Delacroix’s acclaimed Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement of 1834 has also been identified as a key inspiration for La danse. A native to the département of Paris, Derain would have seen this work both in the Louvre and over the course of his studies at the Académie Julien in the early 1900s.
La Danse is an idiosyncratic painting, even for Derain’s Fauve years,” Judi Freedman writes, “it is a painting of major ambition by an artist who aspired to make a statement of supreme importance and visual impact” (Fauves, exh. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1995, p. 110).

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