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Bateaux au port de Collioure

Oil on canvas
Signed lower right Derain
46.3 x 38 cm (18 ¹/₄ x 15 inches)

Galerie Louis Manteau, Brussels
Georges Daelemans collection, Brussels, acquired before 1952 
Private collection, Brussels
Christie’s London, 4 February 2015, lot n° 3
Private collection, Brussels

- S. Whitfield, Fauvism,New York, 1992
- M. Kellermann, André Derain, Catalogue Raisonné de l'œuvre peint,Paris, 1992, n° 51, p. 32

- Paris, Musée national d'Art moderne, L'École de Paris dans les collections belges, July- October 1959, n° 38
- Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Les Fauves, 1962, n° 33
- Paris, Musée national d'Art moderne, Le Fauvisme français et les débuts de l'Expressionisme allemand, January­-March 1966, n° 23, illustrated; this exhibition later travelled to Munich, Haus der Kunst, March-May 1966
- Recklinghausen, Städtische Kunsthalle, Zauber des Lichtes, June-July 1967, n° 52
- Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, Derain, August-September 1967, n° 16, illustrated; this exhibition later travelled to London, Royal Academy, September-November 1967
- Charleroi, Palais des Beaux­-Arts, La grande époque de Montparnasse, January-­February 1973, n° 18

As soon as he arrived in Collioure in 1905, Matisse fell under the town's spell. He was amazed by the intensity of the luminous beauty radiating from the small fishing port; it was a view that would also enchant Derain, Braque, and Vlaminck. Henri Matisse wrote: « Il n’y a pas en France de ciel plus beau que celui de Collioure (...). Je n’ai qu’à ouvrir les volets de ma chambre et j’ai toutes les couleurs de la Méditerranée chez moi » ("Nowhere in France is there a sky more beautiful than that in Collioure (…) I only need to open my shutters, and I have all the colors of the Mediterranean in my room.") The town and the surrounding region became one of Fauvism's signature subjects.

« En effet, ce pays-ci [...] ce sont des bateaux, des voiles blanches, des barques multicolores. Mais,surtout, c’est la lumière. Une lumière blonde, dorée qui supprime les ombres : [...] Tout ce que j’ai fait jusqu’ici me semble stupide. »
“Indeed, this country [...] it is boats, white sails, multicoloured boats. But, above all, it is the light. A blonde, golden light which erases shadows: [...] Everything I’ve done so far seems stupid to me.”

In 1905, Derain's parents were pressuring him to give up painting, which threw him into a period of deep loneliness and discouragement. Matisse's invitation, in July of that year, to visit him in Collioure offered him a valued escape. Together, they painted the landscapes around the town, inspired by the warm light that emphasized the vivid colors of the countryside of the south of France.

They abandoned then fully the conventions and traditional rules of coloration. Bateaux au port de Collioureis one of a series of foundational works that Derain did in Collioure in 1905. These works are composed principally in primary colors and executed with thick, determined brushstrokes.

Bateaux au port de Collioureshows a view of the Collioure harbor, which Derain painted several times. The masts of the boats, arranged in long, vibrant orange lines, meld into the blue of the sea. The boats, with the sea reflected in their hulls, seem to be in motion, and you can almost feel the effort it takes the people on the seafront to keep on going under the oppressive heat. Derain seems to have painted this work quickly with a vibrant and assured attention, applying the colors directly from the tube onto the canvas in impulsive strokes. The ochre of the canvas plays an integral role in the composition and emphasizes the bursts of color. 

Though Derain and Matisse were very close in 1905, they were not the only influences on each other's work at the time. Derain's work, in particular, was enriched by his friendship with the painter Maurice de Vlaminck, and their encounters were intellectually stimulating for them both. Derain and Vlaminck had gone together to see the 1901 Van Gogh exhibition at Galerie Bernheim, which had a strong influence on the work of the Fauves. It was at that exhibition that Derain introduced Vlaminck to Matisse, and thus the core trio of the Fauvists was concretized under the auspices of van Gogh.

However, this initial connection didn't last very long—in 1901, Derain began his military service, and Vlaminck, who stayed in the country in Chatou, fell out of touch with Matisse for a while, though Derain continued to write frequently to Vlaminck about painting and about color. In 1901, he wrote : « Quant à la peinture, je suis conscient que la période réaliste a cessé. » ("As for painting, clearly, the realist period is over"). It was Derain's way of expressing his conviction that a new era for painters had begun. When he finished his military service in 1904, he went to join his friend Vlaminck in Chatou. That same year, Matisse was exhibiting his paintings with Ambroise Vollard, and he introduced his dealer to Derain. Vollard was deeply impressed by his work; he arranged a studio for Derain in 1905 and then commissioned him a series of paintings of London.

A new consciousness guided their experiments from that moment on; informed by an essential primitivism, it was above all charged with psychological engagement, intentional un-learning, and a return to a certain candor that freed them from conventions and allowed them to approach painting with a new eye. They remained avidly interested in making new pictorial discoveries and in sharing them in new encounters. This new communal consciousness and the collaborations and exchanges between artists were determining elements of Fauvism. They brought an innovative optimism to the mix, an optimism that, without breaking with tradition, liberated a deep, personal creativity. 

In 1905, Derain stayed in Collioure from July 5 to August 28 and created a large and iconic body of Fauvist work, including some 30 paintings and 20 drawings.