Maurice de Vlaminck, French

(1876-1958)

Maurice Vlaminck and Andre Derain were good friends and neighbors in France; they made a spectacular pair.  Both were huge and both wore conspicuous clothes.  One of Vlaminck’s favorite items of costume was a painted wooden necktie.  They lived and worked in a seaside suburb called Chatou and invited Matisse to visit them there.  Thus began one of the most fruitful associations in modern French art: Fauvism.

Despite their friendship there were wide differences in their personalities as well as many similarities.  Vlaminck claimed to despise intellectual pursuits;  Derain read enormous numbers of books.  Vlaminck called Derain “a hot-house plant”;  Derain’s father forbade his son to bring Vlaminck to their house.

Vlaminck was about twenty-five at the time; he was already married and had two children.  He took life a great deal more lightly than the others;  he had no money.  He was a red-headed colossus, well known as a boxer and a wrestler.  He supported himself and his family partly as a violinist, sometimes posing as a gypsy, and by writing pulp novels that skirted the boundaries of pornography.  He was a blatant self-promoter who painted in furious bursts, often spreading the oil paint on directly from the tubes. By the age of thirty, he had attained heights he never regained in a long lifetime of painting.

After a brief skirmish with Cubism, Vlaminck began striking out against the current trend.  He retired to Normandy and started painting the dozens of landscapes, golden wheat fields and chilly, wind-swept winter scenes that earned him the title “poet of stormy skies”.