The Comité Derain has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
The vase titled Baigneuses dans un paysage is among the largest and most spectacular of approximately twenty tin-glazed ceramics that Derain executed between 1906 and 1908 in collaboration with the master ceramicist André Metthey. Trained as a stone mason and a sculptor, Metthey developed an interest in the ceramic arts of the Far East, Moorish Spain, Renaissance Italy and France, as well as the work of more recent and contemporary artisans in this field. He built his first kiln in 1892, and in 1903-1904 he revived the practice of making ceramics from varieties of earth indigenous to the Paris vicinity, such as green earth from Fresnes, "Marne" from Meudon and sand from Fontenay-aux-Roses. His experiments lead to the discovery of faïence stannifère, a tin-glazed ceramic. Using a mixture of lead and tin, he produced ceramic ware of exceptional white opacity that provided a luminous surface for brightly colored decoration.
Metthey published a seminal article entitled La Renaissance de la faïence stannifère, in which he laid out his program for transforming the art of ceramics. "Instead of giving a role of executor to the decorator, who is condemned to repeat the same motif from one end to another," he wrote, "I have tried to give back to the artist the role which is truly his, that of a collaborator This is how I came to produce about one hundred ceramics with artists of very different temperament, who are the most original artists of the present day, such as Renoir, Redon, Bonnard, Denis, Derain, Maillol, Laprade, Puy, Rouault, Roussel and de Vlaminck" (in La Grande Revue, October 1907, p. 749). These artists comprised Metthey's Ecole d'Asnière, named for the Paris suburb where he had his workshop. The dealer Ambroise Vollard supported their efforts, and eventually amassed a collection of 59 works which he donated in 1937 to the Musée du Petit Palais, Paris. Various artists in the group showed works individually in the salons of 1906. The Ecole d'Asnière was but short-lived, and exhibited only once as a group at the 1907 Salon d'Automne, for which occasion Metthey wrote his article.
Derain concentrated on the landscape as his primary subject in the initial groundbreaking series of Fauve pictures that he painted in 1905. He subsequently began to treat the figure in a landscape setting, first as Bacchic revelers in L'Age d'Or and La Danse (Kellermann, nos. 373 and 374; the latter, fig. 1). Impressed by the bathers compositions in the Cézanne memorial exhibition at the 1907 Salon d'Automne, Derain embarked on his own versions of this theme, which soon began to take on the primitivist figuration and subdued earthen colors that characterize the advent of early Cubism. The colorful, rhythmic decoration of bathers and foliage on the vase offered here marks a transitional moment in Derain's quickly evolving pictorial styles during this period, when brilliant Fauve color and boldness of line inflected his treatment of the bathers subject. Here he has used the pure white ceramic ground as if it were the gesso priming on a canvas, to which he has applied the colored slip in sweeping arabesques, drawing directly and energetically with his brushes on the vase. In the manner of Greek vase painting, Derain has created a frieze in the round, depicting a procession of bathing women with neither beginning nor end, recasting this timeless subject it in the dynamic syntax of modern painting.
(fig. 1) André Derain, La Danse, 1905-1906. Fridart Foundation, London.