- André Derain
- Les Voiles rouges
- Signed Derain (lower left)
- Oil on canvas
- 30 by 39 in.
- 76 by 99 cm
Alice Manteau, Paris
René Gimpel (on consignment from the above)
The Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio (acquired from the above between 1930-31)
Knoedler & Co., New York (acquired from the above in the early 1950s)
Sarah Campbell Blaffer, Houston (acquired from the above on November 28, 1951)
Cecil Blaffer Hudson von Fürstenberg, Houston & New York (acquired by descent from the above circa 1960)
Acquired by descent from the above in 2007
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Derain Before 1915, 1961
New York, Knoedler & Co., Seven Decades, 1895-1965: Crosscurrents in Modern Art, 1966, no. 82, illustrated in the catalogue
Edinburgh Festival Society; Royal Scottish Academy & London, Arts Council of Great Britain, André Derain, 1967, no. 21, illustrated in the catalogue
Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art & London, Royal Academy of Arts, The Fauve Landscape: Matisse, Derain, Braque and their Circle, 1904-1908, 1990-91, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Andre Derain: le peintre du trouble moderne, 1994-95, no. 42, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, fauves, London, 1995, no. 33, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Michel Kellermann, André Derain, Catalogue Raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1992, vol. I, no. 112, illustrated p. 70
André Derain, The London Paintings (exhibition catalogue), Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 2006, no. 29, illustrated in color p. 129
Roughly thirty canvases were painted during Derain’s stay in London. Most of these compositions depicted recognizable sites such as the Palace of Westminster, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Charing Cross and the Tower Bridges; and some were in direct correspondence with Monet’s chosen views. The present work however, is void of any of the readily discernible landmarks and instead features a wide section of the river and lacks any architectural skyline. Several scholars suggested that the present work was painted in Greenwich, a town located at the lowest crossing point on the Thames, downriver from London city. The boat painted by Derain resembles a Thames sailing barge, or commercial sailing boat commonly found on the River Thames in London. These flat bottom boats were powered by spritsails which were uniquely colored a reddish-brown. Derain painted only one other known composition at this location, Effets de soleil sur l'eau which resides in the Musée de l’Annonciade, Saint-Tropez.
John House discussed the uniqueness of Derain’s personal interpretation of his London series stating: “There is an immediate paradox about André Derain’s views of London. His chosen subjects belong firmly within the topographical tradition, depicting sites that had become, by the early twentieth century, part of the stock imagery of London. By contrast, the style and execution of the paintings is aggressively experimental – the colour extravagant and at times radically anti-naturalistic, the brushstroke a freely improvised medley of the latest Parisian avant-garde styles.” (J. House, The Thames Transfigured: André Derain’s London in André Derain, The London Paintings (exhibition catalogue) op. cit., p. 31). The present work is boldly experimental and holds an important place in André Derain’s early career as an emblem of his Fauvist aesthetic of 1906. This dynamic seascape, executed with brilliantly saturated swaths of color and line, embodies an energy and vigor that defined the spirit of Derain and his colleagues Matisse, Vlaminck and Braque from 1905-1907.
Describing the unique pictorial effect created in Derain’s work of this period, Jacqueline Munck remarked: “Line and stroke seemed to have travelled back in time to rediscover their origins and invent mark, outline and pulsation, the rhythm of life, the natural extension of the eye that draws, a plunge into instinct, impatient graphs, fluid or solid, irrigating the obverse and reverse of the perceptible and the luminous” (J. Munck in André Derain (exhibition catalogue), Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Valencià, 2003, p. 66). Derain’s unbridled palette and poetic rendering of a large boat with red sails in the present work played a pivotal role in the development of modern painting.
Formerly in the collection of The Toledo Museum of Art, the present work was purchased by Sarah Campbell Blaffer in November 1951. Blaffer was the daughter of William Thomas Campbell, the founder of the Texas Company (later known as Texaco), and Sarah Campbell (née Turnbull). Sarah’s lifelong love for supporting the arts began during a visit to the Louvre during her honeymoon with her husband Robert E. Lee Blaffer (the founder of the Humble Oil & Refining Co., now Exxon Mobil). Together, the Blaffers amassed a comprehensive collection of works ranging from Old Master paintings to Impressionist and Modern works. Mrs. Blaffer was an early benefactor of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston where she later donated a large portion of her collection. Following her death, the present work was inherited by her daughter Cecil Blaffer Hudson von Fürstenberg (also known as Titi von Fürstenberg). Derain's majestic Les Voiles rouge has remained in this same family collection for over sixty years.