Landscape near Cassis (Paysage aux environs de Cassis), 1907
Oil on canvas
33 x 41 cm
Hermann und Margrit Rupf-Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern
© André Derain, VEGAP, Bilbao, 2016.
“Fauvism was our ordeal by fire. . . It was the era of photography. This may have influenced us and played a part in our reaction against anything resembling a snapshot of life. No matter how far we moved away from things, it was never far enough. Colors became charges of dynamite.” André Derain, 1967 
André Derain (Chatou, 1880–Garches, 1954) was a young engineering student when he began to attend painting classes with Eugène Carrière in 1898. In Carrière’s studio, he met the painters Henri Matisse (Le Cateau, 1869–Nice, 1954) and Maurice de Vlaminck (Paris, 1876–Rueil-la-Gadelière, 1958), who became good friends and travelling companions.
During the summer of 1905, Derain travelled with Matisse to Collioure (southern France), where the artist began to paint, generating striking contrasts with saturated colors and illuminating his landscapes with bright light. That same year, his works were exhibited in Paris’s Autumn Salon. In his criticism of this show, Louis Vauxcelles used the word fauves (wild beasts) to descriptively refer to the group of artists that included Derain, Matisse and Vlaminck. After that, the style of these artists was known as Fauvism .
Derain spent the following summers in southern France. The French Riviera attracted the Fauvist painters because of its bright light, which helped them capture the brilliance of the colors . During this period, the blue of the Mediterranean Sea and sky began to be a regular feature in Derain’s paintings . He applied the paint directly from the tube, which conferred enormous physical density, and he painstakingly chose the colors bearing in mind the intensity of the light and color of the place he was depicting .
The artist painted this landscape, where the soft, rolling hills of the landscape were hinted at with thick lines delimiting large, flat colored surfaces, in the summer of 1907 in Cassis. This work is halfway between Fauvism and Cubism. Even though the stark color contrasts and thick black outlines still fall within Fauvism, one of whose top exponents had been Derain himself, now his color palette, which was limited to nuanced earth tones, along with the dense web of stylized natural elements on a smooth surface, show a Cubist feel .
That same year, the collector Hermann Rupf (1880–1962) visited Derain’s studio in the company of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884–1979), an art dealer and close friend of Rupf. On this visit, Rupf purchased the work Landscape near Cassis, marking the start of his collection. Fascinated by Derain’s oeuvre, Rupf later decided to purchase 10 more of the artist’s works.
Look at the work. Take some time to analyze and describe all of its details. Where do you imagine this landscape is located? What time of day do you think it is? What does it make you think?
Imagine that you could enter the painting. How would you feel? What sounds, smells and senses would you perceive? Would you like to be there? Why? Where do you imagine Derain was when he painted this canvas?
Now pay attention to the colors. How would you describe them? What mood do they convey? How do you think this painting is different from other landscape paintings you have seen before? Make a list of all the elements you see in this painting (such as: trees, hills, the sky, the sea, etc.). What elements draw your attention? Why? How are they related to each other
Until the late 19th century, artists primarily painted in their studios following the rules of the art academies. To paint this work in 1907, Derain worked outdoors, painting directly from nature. What are the advantages and disadvantages of both ways of working? Which would you prefer as an artist: to paint in your studio or to paint directly in nature? Why?
Go on the Internet and look for current pictures of Cassis; compare them with the 1907 work Landscape near Cassis. How are they different? Are there any aspects that seem similar to you? If Derain painted Cassis today, how do you think he would do it? What elements would he highlight? How would the picture change? What do you think he would add to or subtract from the picture?
Derain spent several summers in the French Riviera with his friends. He painted some of his works from southern France on site, while he painted others once he was back in his studio in Paris. Think about a special place to paint, such as a park or a garden. Go there and take paper and colored paint. First choose a small section of the place and look at it for some time. Make a sketch (around 30 minutes) and note down the place so that you can come back later. Try to notice what the colors in the place you visited are like, what the climate is like, the smells, the atmosphere… Once you are satisfied with the image, you can transfer it to canvas and paint it with tempera or acrylic. Try to get your work to capture the sensations you felt when you were there via your color choices. The work does not necessarily need to be realistic; instead, it should convey the feeling you had while you were there.
Write a poem
As a group, generate a list of words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.) associated with this painting. Choose several words from this list and compose a poem about Derain’s painting. What title would you give your poem? Would you dedicate it to anyone special?
Postcards from Cassis
Print Derain’s work and imagine that it is a postcard of a place you have visited with your school. Choose the person you are sending the postcard to and write a few lines about your trip. Include a description of the place, the activities you did there and a description of your mood during the trip. Don’t forget to talk about the things you ate, drank and discovered there.
Cubism: An artistic movement that emerged in 1907, when the artists Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso developed a visual language together which broke with classical representation and perspective through geometric planes that decompose and fragment the shapes of the objects. In Analytical Cubism (1909–1912), the artists focused on composition and the fragmentation of shapes; the use of dull colors like grays and ochers predominated. In Synthetic Cubism (1912–1914), they began to introduce objects into their paintings to create ties with reality—such as pieces of newspapers, paper, fabric and metal, as well as other materials—which became part of the composition, giving rise to “collage”.
Fauvism: A painting style from the early 20th century characterized by an unrealistic use of colors which are not necessarily associated with the object. The Fauvists tended towards thick brushstrokes and saturated colors which sparked bright contrasts.
Autumn Salon, Paris: An art exhibition which has been held in Paris every year since 1903, where Fauvism was introduced in 1905.
- Duthuit, George, The Fauvist Painters, New York, Wittenborn, Schultz, 1950, p. 29.
- The Collection of Hermann and Margrit Rupf, exhibition catalogue, Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, 2016, p. 48.
Collection of the Rupf Foundation
Biography of Andre Derain
Fauvism. Museum of Modern Art of New York.
Museum of Modern Art of New York. Analysis of the work Bridge over the Riou