Forest at Martigues
by Andre Derain
28.7-Derain_ForestMartigues-AIC-1931.506
André Derain (French, 1880–1954), Forest at Martigues, ca. 1908–9. Oil on canvas, 32 × 39½ in. (81.3 × 100.3 cm). Arthur Jerome Eddy Memorial Collection, 1931.506, The Art Institute of Chicago. © 2013 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

André Derain
Forest at Martigues, c. 1908-1909
Oil on canvas, 32 x 39 1/2 in. (81.3 x 100.3 cm)
Art Institute of Chicago

Derain spent May through late November 1908 in the Mediterranean village of Martigues, located northwest of Marseille in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France, and he painted at least fifteen landscapes there. [1] The seaside town features picturesque canals, docks, and bridges, but Derain hardly ever painted the water. Instead he focused on the trees, houses, and sky, simplifying these elements and reducing them to their basic geometries. The composition, particularly the house at the center, demonstrates the growing influence of Paul Cézanne on his work.

A break with Matisse and Fauvism

Stylistically Forest at Martigues reflects Derain’s break with Fauvism in 1907-1908. [2] Around this time he abandoned his vibrant Fauvist palette and adopted muted tones, focusing more on form than on color. This major shift in his artistic style accompanied a personal break with Henri Matisse and growing allegiance with Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. An April 1, 1908, letter from the French painter Pierre Girieud to his colleague Georges Dufrenoy summarized the situation: “You must know all about the fight between Matisse and Derain. The former has been rather squalidly dropped by his set. Derain, allied with Picasso, has grouped [Anton] Friesz, Braque, [Maurice de] Vlaminck around himself.” [3]

Two major exhibitions

Forest at Martigues was included in the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition at the Grafton Galleries in London from October 5–December 31, 1912 (cat. 12, as La Forêt), and at the Armory Show in 1913. It was lent to both exhibitions by the Paris dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who began representing Derain in 1907 and signed an exclusive contract with him in 1912.

The critics

In general, works by Derain and his fellow Fauves in the Armory Show were slammed in the press. But the critic W. D. MacColl praised “Derain’s classical composition and pure deep color,” exclaiming “what a study for a young artist in the slow gentle movement and rhythmic basis of his drawing!” [4]

Sold!

Forest at Martigues was purchased from the Armory Show for $378 by the Chicago lawyer and collector Arthur Jerome Eddy, who gave it to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1931.

[1] See Michel Kellermann, André Derain: Catalogue Raisonné de l’oeuvre peint (Paris: Editions Galerie Schmit, 1992-1999), 1:84-93.

[2] See Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, André Derain: An Outsider in French Art (Copenhagen: Statens Museum for Kunst, 2007), 96-97.

[3] Quoted ibid., 97.

[4] W. D. MacColl, “The International Exhibition of Modern Art: An Impression,” Forum 50 (July 1913), 24.

André Derain (1880-1954)

André Derain was the son of a successful baker in Chatou, France. Around age fifteen he began to paint with local artists and in 1898 he enrolled at the Académie Camillo, working under Eugène Carriére. There he met Henri Matisse, who became a close friend and important influence. In 1900 Derain met Maurice de Vlaminck and the two soon took up residence together in Chatou. After three years spent in the military, Derain returned to Chatou in 1904 where he painted landscapes with Vlaminck and studied at the Académie Julien in Paris. Derain spent the summer of 1905 painting with Matisse in the Mediterranean town of Collioure. In 1907 he moved from Chatou to Paris, where he settled in Montmartre and met Pablo Picasso.

The years 1904 to 1908 are considered the Fauve years. [1] Derain, Matisse, and Vlaminck were the principal members of the group dubbed the Fauves—“wild beasts”— in 1905 by the critic Louis Vauxcelles. Art historians situate Fauvism between Post-Impressionism and Cubism— a final immersion in color before the early-twentieth-century fascination with form. Within the movement, the Fauve years saw a shift from the use of intense primary and secondary colors applied in small patches with interstices of canvas left open, to a darker, more nature-based range of colors and large, almost abstract masses of form.

Derain broke with Matisse and Fauvism in 1907-1908. [2] Around this time he abandoned his vibrant Fauvist palette and adopted muted tones, focusing more on form than on color. This major shift in his artistic style accompanied a personal break with Matisse and growing allegiance with Picasso and Georges Braque. Beginning around 1911 and for the rest of his career he worked in a traditional, more classical style that reflected his interest in Old Master painting.

[1] See Judi Freeman, The Fauve Landscape (New York: Abbeville Press, 1990).

[2] See Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, André Derain: An Outsider in French Art (Copenhagen: Statens Museum for Kunst, 2007), 96-97.

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