Olaf Rude, Denmark (by the early 1930s)
Private Collection (by descent from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner
The present work, completed during the summer of 1906 at l’Estaque (see fig. 1), a small port on the Mediterranean coast, is one of Derain’s most accomplished Fauvist landscapes. He painted fifteen canvases over the course of his stay there, all of which are marked by their vibrant colors and energetic brushstrokes. These landscapes evidence a decisive moment in Derain’s oeuvre. He further developed the artistic elements of color and light discovered the previous summer spent at Collioure with Matisse. In a letter to him, Derain describes his experience at l’Estaque: “The landscape is very pretty here and the light sharper than in Collioure…However there are high chalk mountains covered in pine trees which are wild and superb in their luminosity” (Camille Rodskjaer, French 19th and 20th Century Paintings and Works on Paper (exhibition catalogue), Stoppenbach & Delestre, London, 2005, p. 10).
The Estaque series can be characterized by a departure from realistic representation and a desire to infuse the landscapes with a feeling of ideal and harmonious isolation (see fig. 2). This Fauvist search for a modern day Eden was certainly a reaction to the social and political unrest that was erupting throughout the world at that time. Paysage à l’Estaque depicts a tree dappled hillside leading down to an idyllic coastline in the South of France (see fig. 3). Derain has abandoned the technical exactness of Neo-Impressionism in favor of an abstract mosaic of flat patches and short strokes of vibrant color. He paints in the wild, hot palette of reds, cobalts, yellows and greens that defined the Fauves, caring little for the accurate depiction of color. Even the shadows are painted in colors as bright as those illuminated by sunlight.
Years later, Derain would remark in retrospect, “Fauvism was our ordeal by fire. No matter how far we moved away from things, in order to observe them and transpose them at our leisure, it was never far enough. Colours became charges of dynamite. They were expected to discharge light. It was a fine idea, in its freshness, that everything could be raised above the real. It was serious too. With our flat tones, we even preserved a concern for mass, giving for example to a spot of sand a heaviness it did not possess, in order to bring out the fluidity of the water, the lightness of the sky…The great merit of this method was to free the picture from all imitative and conventional contact” (Denys Sutton, André Derain, London, 1959, p. 20-21).
Derain’s approach to Fauvism was unique and ever changing. Not content to continue painting exactly as he did in Collioure, there is an underlying formal structure to this series that hints towards the emergence of his later style The trees are more solidly depicted and there is a sense of receding space that gives these paintings a feeling of deliberate composition that is reminiscent of Cézanne (see fig. 4). Derain would undoubtedly have been influenced by his paintings, including those painted at the end of his life at l’Estaque, at the retrospective exhibition held in 1904.
It is believed that the artist's wife, Alice, probably sold this painting while her husband was serving in World War I, which is why the work is not signed by the artist. The first owner of record of this picture was Paul Guillaume, who was one of the leading dealers working in Paris in the 1920s. The work was later acquired by the famous Danish artist, Olaf Rude (1886–1957).
Fig. 1, Panoramic view of L’Estaque (postcard), early twentieth century. Photograph courtesy of Mme. Monique Bernard, Aix-en-Provence
Fig. 2, André Derain, Arbres à l’Estaque, 1906, oil on canvas; Sotheby’s, London, December 7, 1998, Lot 3
Fig. 3, View to the west from above L’Estaque, 1930’s. Photograph by John Rewald, National Gallery of Art Library, Rewald Archive
Fig. 4, Paul Cézanne, L’Estaque: Rocks, Pines, and Sea, 1883-1885, oil on canvas, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
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