Derain, Balthus and Giacometti in Paris

This exhibition is currently showing at Le Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville in Paris until the 29th of October and comprises some 350 works which depict the friendship between these three artists. Their friendship which began in 1933 shows their joint fascination for classical Italian masters, formal clarity and experimentation with both still life and open air painting.


Derain, in particular, emerges as the significant and productive painter of this innovative and energetic period and naturally a truly brilliant colourist. The exhibition shows their cross fertilisation and joint enthusiasms. In addition they shared models, friendships, collectors and in particular their interests in all aspects of contemporary drama. They were, until after the war, energetic in their correspondence although without clear transcripts, their letters are not always easy to read even if the visitor is a fluent reader in French.


The work on show includes some thought provoking portraits, sculptures, stage sets and photographs. It is not difficult to discern the disquieting political atmosphere of the times. As is well known Derain stood accused on account of his visit to Berlin during the German Occupation. These works which include the magnificent etiolated sketches, almost carved into the background, by Giacometti, evidence the frenzied artistic activity situated between Saint-Germain and Montparnasse. The range of Balthus’s work is illustrated besides just the suspense filled eroticism of his depiction of reading, languorous adolescents.

Their friendships included writers and poets like Artiste Arnaud, Max Jacob, Jean Cocteau together with Breton, Camus and Malraux. Surrealism was penetrating the dramatic experiments of the evolving “theatre of cruelty” with projects by Sartre, Beckett and Jean-Louis Barrault. The world of fashion was with Doucet and Dior too was an occasional involvement. This is an exciting exhibition and prospective visitors require a minimum of two hours to get their money’s worth.

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