The present work, Nature morte, was most likely painted in the wake of the artist’s formative encounter with fellow artist Maurice de Vlaminck, which took place on 18th June 1900. Writing to Vlaminck that year, Derain alludes to the exciting new artistic period on the horizon, when Derain was to become one of the leading pioneers of Fauvism: ‘I am aware that the realist period has come to an end […] and that painting is only just beginning’ (quoted in Georges Hilaire, Derain, Geneva, 1959, p. 66, translated from the French).
In these early years, Derain was enrolled at the Académie Camillo in the Cour du Vieux-Colombier where he was taught by Eugène Carrière, and where Henri Matisse also enrolled for a time. Derain had many important influential friendships during his artistic career, and he shared a studio with Matisse and Vlaminck. This work was once owned by Ambroise Vollard, the dealer whose support was pivotal for so many artists living in Paris, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who went on to become internationally celebrated.
Within the present work, the midnight blue jug stands at the centre of the still life, drawing the viewer’s eye to the heart of the canvas through the use of chiaroscuro in contrast to the light blue foreground and swathe of bold yellow pigment at the upper left of the composition. Derain here experiments with the use of line, light and shadow - techniques he would continue to experiment with over the years and which are reminiscent of Paul Cézanne’s still lifes. Indeed, the importance of light for Derain is evident in his reflection that ‘One constructs a painting with light [...] light defines the dimensions of adjacent surfaces and directs the rhythm of their relationship’ (quoted in ‘Notes d'André Derain’, in Cahiers du Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris 1980, vol. V, p. 348).
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