Tag Archives: Derain

How to Forge a Derain

Fauve Path 16x20" Acrylic ©2012 Lucinda Howe

Fauve Path
©2012 Lucinda Howe

At the suggestion of art friends, I’ve been watching Forger’s Masterclass videos on YouTube.  The forger teaches students to paint in the style of several famous artists.  My favorite is Episode 2 on André Derain, one of the Fauves (Wild Beasts) of the early 20th century. The Fauves used bold color and a deceptively simple style that built upon the loose style of the Impressionists.

The Fauves painted outdoors (en plein air), but they were about painting one’s emotional state and not being constrained by literal reality.  It was an early form of expressionism and the beginning of the end of realism.

While Fauvism appears to be simple and childlike, it’s not as easy as it appears.  The forger encouraged the students to make several compositional sketches using simplified shapes.  Then commit to something really fast and stick with it.   Plan colors in advance.  Use shapes in the landscape to build a composition.  Detail is not relevant.   Colors are used to express emotional state and do not have to match reality.  Use pure colors and bold strokes.

This class reminded me of what I want to do with my paintings.  Recently I’ve been concentrating on learning to use oil paints and have felt that my colors were overly dependent on local color.  So I got out my acrylics and tried out a Derain-style painting of the back yard.  I decided on a composition, outlined it in blue, and filled it in quickly using several pairs of complementary colors (blue/orange, red/green).   I set my inner beast free!

Posted in Acrylics, Fauvism, Garden, Plein Air

The Evolution of Derain


Portrait de Madame Paul Guillaume au grand chapeau by André Derain c. 1929

I’ve been familiar with André Derain as an originator of Fauvism, a painter of wildly colored landscapes and portraits with energetic brushstrokes and skewed drawings.  If you don’t know what I mean, Google “Derain” and look at the first page of images.

So when I encountered a large number of Derain’s paintings in the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection at the Musée de l’Orangerie, I was amazed by the variety of his subjects and styles.  Derain passed through his Fauvist period when he was in his mid 20’s, but he lived and worked for almost 50 more years.  During his life, he experimented with sculpture and many styles of painting.  He studied the old masters and began to use a more muted palette, painting a variety of subjects including portraits, still lifes, and figures.

Derain’s later paintings are very beautifully rendered, but not immediately recognizable (to my uneducated eye) as Derain’s style.  This made me wonder about how an artist’s style develops.  Why did Derain move on from his Fauvist phase? How did it happen that Derain is most well known for his early experimental work?   Is innovation that is admired?  Does classical training impede innovation?  If Derain had not passed through the early Fauvist phase, would he have been known at all?  What do you think?

Posted in Fauvism, Travel Also tagged , |

What is Fauvism?

Fauvism developed when Henri Matisse painted with Andre Derain at Collioure on the French Riviera during the summer of 1905.  Matisse’s Open Window Collioure combined landscape with a rectangular window composition and exciting color.  In Fishing Boats, Collioure, Derain emphasized pattern and color using boat shapes as a starting point.

Matisse and Derain explored the use of explosive, pure color without regard to natural colors.  Their style was characterized by bold, arbitrary color, simplification of forms, and energetic application of paint.  The appearance of spontaneity was valued, occasionally at the expense of perspective.  They were interested in creating an object of beauty rather than a representation of reality.  By disassociating color from form, they opened the door for Expressionism where color was the main subject without regard to form.

Today, many artists use creative color while drawing inspiration from the landscape.  In the future, we’ll look at how Fauvism is being reinterpreted by contemporary painters.  If you know of painters who would be considered contemporary Fauves, suggest their names in the comments.

Posted in Fauvism Also tagged , |