My personal belief is that Derain did his best work, the colourful Fauvist works, in a very narrow period of his career, namely the first decade of the C20th. I particularly like the work he did over a period of only two years, 1906 and 1907 – the paintings from Collioure and London.
In 1898, while studying to be an engineer at the Académie Camillo, he attended painting classes under Eugène Carrière, where he met Matisse. In 1900, he met and shared a studio with Maurice de Vlaminck and began to paint his first landscapes. His studies were interrupted from 1901 to 1904 when he was conscripted into the French army. Following his release from service, Matisse persuaded Derain's parents to allow him to abandon his engineering career and devote himself solely to painting; subsequently Derain attended the Académie Julian.
Derain and Matisse worked together through the summer of 1905 in the Mediterranean village of Collioure, attracted by the light over the Mediterranean Sea. Later that year they displayed their innovative paintings at the Salon d'Automne. The vivid, unnatural colours led the critic Louis Vauxcelles to derisively dub their works as les Fauves, or "the wild beasts". The term was seized upon and provided a name for the Fauvist movement. In March 1906, the noted art dealer Ambroise Vollard sent Derain to London to compose a series of paintings with the city as subject. These London paintings remain among his most popular work.
Derain experimented with stone sculpture and moved to Montmartre to be near his friend Pablo Picasso and other noted artists. At Montmartre, Derain began to shift from the brilliant Fauvist palette to more muted tones, showing the influence of Cubism and Paul Cézanne. At about this time Derain's work began overtly reflecting his study of the old masters. The role of colour was reduced and forms became austere; the years 1911-1914 are sometimes referred to as his gothic period. In 1914 he was mobilized for military service in World War I and until his release in 1919 had little time for painting. After the war, Derain won new acclaim as a leader of the renewed classicism then ascendant. With the wildness of his Fauve years far behind, he was admired as an upholder of tradition. In 1919 he designed the ballet La Boutique fantasque for Diaghilev, leader of the Ballets Russes. A major success, it would lead to his creating many ballet designs.
Nazi propaganda made much of Derain's presence in Germany during the second World War, and after the Liberation he was branded a collaborator and ostracized by many former supporters. A year before his death, he contracted an eye infection from which he never fully recovered. He died in Garches, Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France, France in 1954 when he was struck by a vehicle.
|1904 Les Vignes au Printemps|
|1905 Fishing Boats at Collioure|
|1905 Fishing Boats, Collioure|
|1905 Henri Matisse|
|1905 Mountains at Collioure|
|1905 Port de Peche, Collioure|
|1905 The Mountains at Collioure|
|1905 Trees in Colliure|
|c1905 Barque au port de Collioure|
|1906 Blackfriars Bridge|
|1906 Bridge over the Riou|
|1906 Charing Cross Bridge|
|1906 Houses of Parliament at Night|
|1906 London Bridge|
|1906 Charing Cross Bridge|
|1906 Pool of London|
|1906 The Red Sails|
|1906 The Turning Road, L'Estaque (note: this is the same view as Bridge over the Riou 1906, above)|
|1906 View of the Thames|