Derain Drops

André Derain, Matisse et Terrus, 1905, 40.3 x 54.3 cm, being sold by the family of Etienne Terrus at Christie’s Paris on 9 April 2024 [cropped to show the entire canvas minus the unfortunate frame]

It is amazing that a painting like this can be out there for 120 years, and just turn up one day at Christie’s or whatever. But that’s what happened. André Derain, then 25, made this portrait of his friends Henri Matisse and Etienne Terrus, a local artist, on the beach in Collioure the summer they invented what came to be called Fauvism.

Derain presumably gave it to Terrus—it has remained in the family of his sister until now—and so it was not included in the works he and Matisse took back to Paris, and showed to much sensation and acclaim at the Salon d’Automne. It has never been publicly exhibited or published, and except for one biographer’s mention in the 1950s, was left out of the art historical record.

André Derain, Portrait of Henri Matisse, 1905, 33 x 41 cm, collection: Philadelphia Museum of Art

But a very similar, slightly smaller Derain portrait of Matisse alone, at the same table, even wearing the same fit, has been in the Philadelphia Museum’s collection since 1952.

Christie’s sold a previously unknown Matisse from Terrus’s collection last fall, a small “proto-Fauvist” depiction of the Jardins de Luxembourg from 1902. And Terrus was the original owner of a small Collioure landscape by Matisse that had gone through the Wildensteins to Christie’s to Edgar Bronfman—and back to Christie’s in 2014. So it feels like someone should have known about this—and maybe they did. But they nevertheless sat in a safe for sixty years.

Otherwise the only marvel greater than the painting itself is how two agencies are ready to claim copyright on them both, 119 years after they were made, and 70 years after their maker’s death.

Rediscovered: A Fauvist Portrait by André Derain of Henri Matisse and Fellow Artist Etienne Terrus [christie’s online magazine]
9 Apr 2024, Lot 12: André Derain, Matisse et Ferrus, 1905, est. EUR2-3m [update: sold for EUR3.19m] [christies]
Previously, not related, 2018: Etienne Terrus Museum discovers more than half its collection are fakes [guardian]