Executed circa 1906.
Vevey, Musée Jenisch, De Cézanne à Picasso, Maîtres de l’aquarelle du XXe siècle, 1962, no. 58
This work forms part of a rare group of figurative watercolours executed by Derain just as Fauvism was reaching its apogee during the years 1905-06. It is typical of the artist's striking handling of watercolour, which is used sparingly, the palette pure and undiluted, with particular accent placed on the reds, blues and oranges. While Derain's approach to watercolours was sympathic to that of his paintings, he regarded it as an separate activity, in parallel to his painted work, and of equal importance. Derain leaves large areas of the paper unpainted, thereby providing a contrast to the strength and fluidity of his line, and intensity of the blocks of colour, a technique often employed in his Fauve paintings.
This watercolour is closely related to a work formerly in the Pierre Lévy collection, and now in the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, Les Filles (fig. I). They are almost identical in size, and were most probably executed at the same time. Both demonstrate Derain's at once comic and exaggerated treatment of the theme of bohemian carnavals and cabarets, and while his choice of this subject may show the influence of Toulouse-Lautrec and the painters of Belle-Epoque Montmatre, he transforms the scene into pure Fauve composition, with its emphasis on spatial harmony and chromatic purity.
FIG. I, André Derain, Les Filles, 1905-06, watercolour and crayon on paper, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris.
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