Mountains at Collioure - Watercolor

"Mountains at Collioure after Derain" Watercolor

This watercolor was painted as a study after the French artist, Andre Derain. The original was made in 1905 while he was working with Henri Matisse at the seaside village of Collioure, France.

They had developed a startling new style that emphasized painterly qualities and vibrant color over representational depictions. It was a radical shift from the polished salon art that was currently in vogue at that time.

Conservative art critics were outraged and labeled the loose group of Modern artists les Fauves (French for “wild beasts”). Fauvists believed the arbitrary use of pure color offered a more expressive way of depicting the subjects they loved to paint.

Contemplating the picture above, we can sense Derain’s exuberant reaction to visiting beautiful Collioure. The picturesque fishing port is tucked away between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees Mountains.

The blades of grass are like sticks of dynamite that explode into long brushstrokes, radiating across the paper’s surface. The impressive peaks are simplified into planes of flat color where turquoise and vermillion clash.

Beneath their blue canopy, twisted, red trees are writhing towards a jade-green sky. The southern, summer sun saturates the landscape with lemon yellow but in this picture shadows don’t dare exist.

Color theory is a complicated but fascinating subject. When it is applied masterfully, there is no doubt deliberate color can elicit an emotional response from the receptive viewer.

I’m a great admirer of the Photo-realists and the amazing technical skills they possess. Even so, there’s something to be said for those artists willing to break from convention and take a risk.

Distorting reality in such a way that results in a more powerful expression is often more difficult than it appears. That’s why of all the art movements I’ve ever studied, one of my favorites has to be those creative colorists known as les Fauves.


  1. I also appreciate les Fauves as well as your amazing painting.

    1. Thanks Stefan, Derain is one of my favorites. I learned a lot about color by making this study from one of his paintings.


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