The bright primary colours dance and shimmer on the River Thames in Derain’s work. The vibrant colours have a sense of unity and have been applied in bold blocks.
By using colours that do not represent real life (a green sky for example) Derain has made colour the subject of the artwork. The unrealistic colours are the talking point, not the boats or the unmistakable Tower Bridge in the background. The setting has become nearly irrelevant. Andre Derain, along with Henri Matisse, were pioneers of the ‘fauvism’ movement. Fauvists were/are artist with a desire to work only with strong colours. This was completely different to other art works at the time (early 1900s) and created public outcry. ‘Favues’ (french) was a moniker bestowed by art critics and translates to ‘wild beasts’ due to the wild use of colour.
When talking about an artwork it is good to think about not just what colours are used but what effect the use of those colours has on the work. Is the use of colour the most interesting thing about the painting? Does it create a sense of harmony or discord?
The defining feature of fauvism is brilliant colour and spontaneous brushstrokes and demonstrates and important shift in the history of art. It was one of the first examples of an emotional involvement with painting. By choosing colours that do not represent real life the artist was revealing to the audience something unique about their thoughts. It gives an insight into their emotional approach to the subject and their state of mind at the time of painting.
Fauvist did not just choose colours at random though. If you look at the best fauvist paintings they all have a great sense of unity which shows a high degree of knowledge about colour theory and which colours work well together (complimentary colours, primary colours etc.)