With this imaginary figure, Derain was continuing his dialogue with the masters of the past. Here, the painter tackles Manet and Spanish painting. Manet painted a number of figures of musicians: La joueuse de guitare, Le chanteur espagnol [The Spanish Singer (The Guitar Player)]. But this one is particularly reminiscent of Le Fifre [The Fife Player], one of Manet’s most famous paintings. The musician stands out against a plain ochre background animated only by the varying angles of the brushstrokes and a light shadow in the lower right hand section. Derain’s freedom of texture and violent contrasts greatly enhance his models. The light on the shirt is expressed by broad areas of white impasto, the shadows by vigorous black brushstrokes. The same contrast is inverted on the neck of the mandolin. Small, delicate touches of white on the face - the eyes, nose and lips - animate the portrait. The Black Man with Mandolin is a veritable symphony in brown, ochre and white.
Provenance: Paul Guillaume; Domenica Walter