André DERAIN (Chatou 1880 - Garches 1954)

Standing Female Nude

Red chalk on buff paper, lightly squared for transfer in pencil.
Signed a. derain in red chalk at the lower right.
666 x 456 mm. (26 1/4 x 18 in.)


The present sheet is among the finest of a group of large-scale drawings of female nudes by Derain that are datable to the early 1920s. As Isabelle Monod-Fontaine has written, ‘After 1919-20, Derain took up a different line of pursuit. Day after day, he drew nudes after a model, often in red chalk, searching for the ideal line and pose. Within this superabundant production one finds both the very best work and the not so good. Like the scales practiced by a pianist, these exercises depend on their repetitiveness; only a rigorous selection can sort out the more significant drawings...Derain’s painting has its roots in constant work of drawing, most of the time from a model’. As she further notes, the same interest in the female nude also found its way into the artist’s paintings of the first years of the 1920s: ‘During the same period, Derain also painted a number of nudes, always after models; his references in this domain run from Raphael to Renoir, taking in Corot en passant. A golden light, uniform and unreal, bathes these radiant bodies, truthful and firmly established in the pictorial space in the same way as classical sculptures.’

As the French art dealer René Gimpel recorded of a visit to the artist in June 1928: ‘I made a quick tour of the studio; there are hardly any pictures...Derain explained to us that if he has so few pictures, it’s because he has painted only one all winter; he has only sketched. He brought in three full boxes: always the same woman, in the most difficult positions...Why all these sketches of the model, five or six months of work, three or four a day, four to five hundred studies, why? “To find a certain position”, Derain told us, “and I haven’t found it.”’

Contemporaneous with the monumental classical bathers of Picasso, Derain’s nudes were much admired by critics, who found much in common with the work of Auguste Renoir, who had died at the end of 1919. Unlike the period before the First World War, when the artist painted no nudes, Derain’s renewed interest in working from the posed model after the war may also have been a result of his enforced break from painting during his military service. Writing of his paintings and drawings of nudes, Jane Lee adds that ‘The number, scale, and variety of these works suggest that he had been planning such pictures before the war and that on his release he took up eagerly the breadth of possibilities in application, composition, drawing, and pose which are open to a painter with a wide breadth of knowledge of the traditions of painting the nude. He drew constantly from the model, and his drawings, as well as his paintings, show his concern with his métier, understandable in a painter whose powers had been pent up for some time.’

Anonymous sale, Los Angeles, Sotheby’s, 5 February 1975, lot 118
Private collection, London.


Standing Female Nude


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