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?