Art/Museums: Masters of Color: Derain to Kandinsky, Masterpieces from the Merzbacher Collection, Andr& Derain, Royal Academy of Arts, London

Even in the dazzling company of the Vlaminck’s and Derains in the second gallery, George Braque (1882-1963) holds his own with a sublime, rosy hued “Landscape at L’Estaque,” (1906) and “Landscape at La Ciotat,” (1907), a jewel of a painting worth kidnapping. The sinuous curves and sumptuous colors of his Fauve period give no hint whatsoever of the controlled color palette and intellectual rigor of the Cubist revolution that Braque, together with Picasso, later instigated. These works are like a joyous romp in a sun-drenched garden, the calm before the storm. Even though it is well known that Braque went through a Fauve period, his lyrical Fauve paintings come as a surprise because they are touchingly uninhibited, colorful and child-like. It made this viewer long for a gigantic retrospective of his work.

Placing all the Fauve paintings chronologically in the first decade of the 20th century, barely free of the constraints and artistic taboos of the 19th century, makes them all the more amazing: “In the late nineteenth century an emphasis on color in art was still regarded by many critics with suspicion,” writes John Gage in his catalogue essay entitled “Color Theory and Color Practice in Early Twentieth Century Art.” He continues: “The century which had seen the publication of several influential color systems which had sought to bring order into what had hitherto been a very disorganized order of experience notably those of the poet Goethe in Germany and the chemist Michel-Eugene Chevreul in France had been unable to release color from the slur of subjectivity. Indeed, for all their claims to objectivity, Goethe’s and Chevreul’s theories were based on contrast-phenomena which were entirely perceptual.”

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