The Painter's Niece

La nièce du peintre

In 1919, Derain's sister-in-law and her baby Geneviève definitively moved into his home. He adored the child, who became one of his favourite models. She moved with her uncle to his new home on rue du Douanier and to his house in Chambourcy. Derain began painting her portrait from the age of nine months, and she posed for more than one hundred of her uncle's paintings. At the studio, she was always busy sharpening pencils or washing paint brushes with Savon de Marseille soap, following the painter's cherished ritual.
In one of his most exquisite portraits, Derain represents Geneviève here in full-scale, that is to say life-size. In an ethereal position, an approximately 12 years old Geneviève is standing on her left leg, with her bent right knee resting on a chair. Each of her tiptoes is pressed against an edge of the painting. Her white dress and her face light up the canvas, composed of a harmony of browns and yellows. The geometric lines are tempered by the round hat and the basket of flowers. Geneviève Géry recalled wearing her Sunday best dress in this portrait and letting her hair grow at the time. One of the frequent visitors to the studio in the 30s was the painter Balthus (1908-2001), Derain's influence on whom can be seen here.

Provenance: Paul Guillaume; Domenica Walter