John Quinn, New York (sale: American Art Galleries, New York, February 9-11, 1927, lot 440)
Edgar Lustgarten, Chicago
Roosevelt University, Chicago (sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 16, 1984, lot 120)
D.E. Young (acquired at the above sale)
Byron Goldman (sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 12, 1987, lot 144)
Artcurial, Paris (acquired at the above sale)
Dickinson Roundell, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in July 2000
This remarkable drawing was executed circa 1904-05 in the months immediately preceding the historic exhibition of Fauve paintings at the Salon d’Automne where the group first acquired the name by which it has been known ever since. While the primary focus of his work was on landscape during this crucial period, Derain’s range of interests went far beyond the stylistic concerns that he shared with Matisse and Vlaminck. Having met Guillaume Apollinaire in 1904, he frequented neo-Symbolist circles and, simultaneously with his landscapes, worked on two monumental allegorical subjects, L’Age d’or (Museum of Modern Art, Teheran) and La danse.
Writing of the former, Denys Sutton noted: “The technique of this unusual picture may have been prompted by Matisse’s extremely divisionist Luxe, calme et volupté, executed at St. Tropez during the winter 1904- 1905 and exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in the spring, where it was promptly acquired by Signac. Whereas Matisse had selected his subject from a relatively modern poet, Baudelaire. Derain turned to classical antiquity, to Ovid’s Metamorphoses – that vast treasure house of iconology that had appealed to Raphael, Titian, and Rubens as well as to many others, and, in doing so, he reverted to a tradition which, quite recently in France, had been followed by Bonnard, Maurice Denis and K.X.Roussel” (Denys Sutton, André Derain, 1959, p.15).
The wildly cavorting nude dancers and the musician with his lyre to the left of the present composition can be associated with this allegorical aspect of Derain’s work during his Fauve period. What is remarkable about it, however, is the inventive manner in which he has evoked his bacchanalian theme. A network of irregular patches of color, green, blue and yellow with touches of red, defines the background at the same time as it silhouettes the figures, leaving the creamy white of the paper to represent their flesh. It was a daring approach which he seldom surpassed in his watercolors.
It is worth noting that this work was in the collection of John Quinn (1870-1924), one of the greatest patrons of modernism in literature and the visual arts, whose collection was dispersed at auction in 1927. Michel Kellermann suggested that the inscription, “Pour André Derain, Alice Derain” was written by the artist’s wife when she sold this work while the painter was in the army during World War I.
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