Peter May’s favourite paint­ing

John Mcewen com­ments on Col­lioure: Le Port de Pêche

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Peter May is a crime writer best known for his award-win­ning ‘Lewis Tril­ogy’. His lat­est book, Cast Iron, is out in pa­per­back this sum­mer

The crime writer found a French port to be fa­mil­iar and then re­alised it had been on his wall for years

‘In the 1990s, I pro­duced a Gaelic-lan­guage TV drama filmed on the Isle of Lewis. A paint­ing from the prop store hung in my of­fice. Vividly coloured sail­ing boats in a har­bour, which I gazed at for hours. In 1996, I quit tele­vi­sion and went to the French Mediter­ranean port of Col­lioure. It seemed oddly fa­mil­iar, al­though I’d never been. Then, in a lo­cal art gallery, I spot­ted the paint­ing from my of­fice wall–a paint­ing, it turned out, of Col­lioure by An­dré Derain. I im­me­di­ately bought a print since’ and it has been hang­ing in my house ever

Derain was born in Cha­tou, near Paris, a favourite im­pres­sion­ist haunt, where his fa­ther had a dairy. as a teenager, he went on out­door paint­ing trips with a lo­cal land­scape painter. His par­ents en­cour­aged these out­ings, but con­sid­ered art a hobby and sent him to en­gi­neer­ing col­lege.

The col­lege was near the l’école des Beaux-arts and the Lou­vre. Derain was art struck. He was in­tro­duced to Matisse, 11 years his se­nior, and met Mau­rice de Vlam­inck, a young Cha­tou artist, on a train. De Vlam­inck lived by his wits; Derain was cush­ioned by a pa­ter­nal al­lowance, but they proved com­ple­men­tary by na­ture and soon shared a stu­dio. Matisse per­suaded Derain’s fa­ther to con­tinue the al­lowance to sup­port his son’s art ca­reer.

it was be­com­ing fash­ion­able for young artists to spend the sum­mer paint­ing in the South of France, pre­vi­ously a win­ter lo­ca­tion for vis­i­tors. in July, Derain fol­lowed Matisse to Col­lioure, a Mediter­ranean fish­ing port on the rail­way near Spain. The bright colours and blaz­ing sun de­lighted him. ‘ev­ery­thing i’ve done un­til now seems stupid,’ he wrote to Vlam­inck.

in Septem­ber, the artists re­turned to Paris to pre­pare for the newly in­tro­duced Sa­lon d’au­tomne. Matisse sent his dealer, am­broise Vol­lard, to see Derain’s pictures and Vol­lard bought the lot. The height­ened, even un-nat­u­ral­is­tic, colours of Matisse, Derain and the other south­ern-in­flu­enced painters dom­i­nated the Sa­lon. The critic Vaux­celles gave the group a name, Les Fauves (the wild beasts). ‘M. Derain is go­ing to alarm peo­ple… let us rec­og­nize nev­er­the­less that his Boats would hap­pily dec­o­rate the wall of a child’s room,’ he wrote.

Col­lioure: Le Port de Pêche, (1905), by An­dré Derain (1880–1954), 32in by 39in, Pri­vate Col­lec­tion

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