Roses sur fond noir

André Derain
Roses sur fond noir
huile sur toile
H. 73 ; L. 60 cm avec cadre H. 94,5 ; L. 81 cm
© Adagp, Paris, 2024 © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée de l'Orangerie) / Hervé Lewandowski
André Derain (1880 - 1954)
Niveau -2, Salle 12

This canvas incorporates a mysterious aspect, unusual in a still life painting of flowers, due to its black background. Indeed, only the pale and vivid colours of the flowers and the greenery stand out from the dark background, as the vase itself is almost invisible. Derain himself said: "Darkness holds more mystery than a triangle or a structured figure".
A great deal of thought has gone into the composition however: it is in the shape of a cross, with the bouquet forming a circle in the centre. Derain brought the painting to life using a procedure he held dear: small, very light touches on the flower petals, which give the whole painting a remarkable intensity. A few spots of white - reflections of light - distinguish the vase. Finally, in the bottom right, we can make out a glass bowl filled with water, and a flower floating on top. This motif is reminiscent of 17th century Dutch still life paintings. The writer André Breton (1896-1966) recalled that: "Derain spoke with emotion of this white spot which some 17th century Flemish and Dutch painters used to enhance a vase, a fruit (...) The object that I am painting, the being before me, only comes to life when I add this spot of white." This is indeed one of André Derain's the most original and personal canvases.