French painter and prominent member of the fauve group of artists.
The Paris exhibition of Van Gogh's paintings in 1901 had a powerful effect on Derain's development as a painter. With Vlaminck and Matisse, he began to treat colour as an independent decorative and expressive element, thus freeing it from its traditional descriptive use. This led to the famous exhibition at the Salon d'Automne in 1905, when the term ‘fauves’ (wild beasts) was coined by a critic reacting to the violent execution and experimental colours of the paintings on view. During the next two years Derain twice visited London, where he painted scenes on the Thames and in Hyde Park. These and his other landscapes, figure compositions, and portraits are full of clashing pure yellows, purples, blues, greens, and reds. He regarded his tubes of colour as ‘sticks of dynamite’ discharging light.
Fauvism was intense but short-lived. In 1908 Derain became increasingly influenced by Cézanne's works and the theories of cubism being developed by Picasso and Braque. His interest turned to form and the restricted use of colour. Three years later he began to develop a style based on early Renaissance masters. This ‘gothic period’ continued until 1920, when he settled into a sombre realistic style, which, though classical, was very much of its time and influenced artistic life in the 1920s. Derain also designed theatre sets and costumes (notably for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes), produced pottery and book illustrations, and at various times in his life experimented with a variety of primitive sculptural styles.