This exhibition focuses on André Derain’s finest moment, before he returned to more traditional styles of painting after World War I.
The terrible events of World War I not only changed the world in terms of geopolitics, warfare and technology, but also had a powerful effect on developments in the world of art. Many of Europe’s most inventive artists,
shaken by the war, gave up the iconoclastic styles they had experimented with at the beginning of the 20th century and retreated to the safer position of working in traditional styles in a movement known as the “Return to Order.”
Picasso and Braque ditched Cubism, and the Italian Futurists left behind their frenetic prewar glorification of speed and modernity.
When I saw the postwar work of André Derain (1880-1954) in the exhibition “Derain, Balthus, Giacometti: An Artistic Friendship” (continues through October 29 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris), I found it uninspiring and longed to see some of his wildly colorful Fauve paintings from before the war. Now my wish has come true with “Derain: The Radical Decade” at the Centre Pompidou (through January 29).
The picture presented by the exhibition is more complicated than I expected, however. The “radical decade” explored by the show is 1904-14. It begins with a strangely modern copy of a Renaissance painting of Christ’s cavalry by Biaggio d’Antonio, made by Derain in 1901, which does not fit the show’s timeframe and is off-topic. That is followed by a few lovely, folksy drawings of people working in the fields, then a series of photographs taken by the artist, many of them quite accomplished and some of which he turned into paintings.