Matisse and Derain: A study in contrasts

James Panero reviews Vertigo of Color: Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. After setting the stage with a discussion of Michel Eugène Chevreul’s theory of contrasting color and its influence on impressionist and post-impressionist painting, Panero traces the story of Matisse and Derain working together in Collioure in the summer of 1905 and compares the two artists’ approach to color:

“Both artists deployed dashes of bold, contrasting colors in their works, often leaving exposed light ground, but their palettes differed. Derain’s flaky surfaces of orange and blue appear baked in the Collioure sun. Matisse’s color choices—of lavender, peach, and green—are more sea-cooled. Matisse also comes off more at ease, as a painter willing to forego the illusion of depth for an intuitive sense of surface, while Derain holds onto the architecture of space, hammering away with his nails of color and light.”