The Italian Almanac

a paint by Andre' Derain

Italian News / Art - September 26

A new show in Ferrara on frequently forgotten French modern artist André Derain is set to stir "indescribable emotions" in visitors. The exhibition features 90 works covering the whole career of Derain (1880-1954), who had a hand in some of the main artistic movements of the early 20th century. At the time, his standing was comparable with that of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. "It was incredible to open the boxes and suddenly see paintings I'd dreamed of presenting in my gallery," said Andrea Buzzoni, the director of Ferrara's Palazzo dei Diamanti, which is hosting the show.

Derain fell out of favour in the second half of the 20th century because his controversial cosiness with the Nazis during the occupation of his homeland in World War II meant he was considered a traitor by many. He lived in Paris during the Occupation and accepted an invitation to make an official visit to Germany in 1941, which was greatly exploited by the Nazi propaganda machine.

The Ferrara show is the first retrospective Italy has organised on Derain for 30 years. It aims to enable today's public to judge the Frenchman by his art, not his politics. The exhibition takes a chronological approach, opening with a selection of early paintings which show the influence of post-Impressionist greats like Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.

The show then hits its stride with works painted in 1905, Derain's breakthrough year. That was when he and Matisse displayed their innovative paintings at Paris' Salon d'Automne, in an exhibition that led the critic Louis Vauxcelles to famously dub them Les Fauves (the wild beasts). Fauvism became a short-lived modern-art movement. Its output was characterised by simplified lines, exaggerated perspectives and bright colours.

The André Derain retrospective runs at Ferrara's Palazzo dei Diamanti until January 7.