Tete de Femme (Head of a Woman)

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Andre Derain (1880-1954), Tete de Femme (Head of a Woman), drypoint, c. 1913, inscribed in pencil lower right “pour Andri Alice Derain.” Probably a proof impressoion (see discussion below), on medium wove paper on a thin japon support (strengthening a weakened plate mark, some skinned areas), the matrix in excellent condition. Reference: Adhémar 37. 12 3/8 x 8 5/8, the sheet 17 1/4 x 12 1/4 inches.

A fine fresh black impression of this important and iconic modernist/cubist image, with a strong layering of plate tone and substantial  burr from the drypoint work.

Jane Lee, in her landmark discussion of Derain prints (Print Quarterly, March 1990) argues that in this print “the head is built on the cubist planar interruptions of a circle, but refers as much to medieval art as to cubism. In this it is close to drawings by Derain published during the War and, particularly in its medievalism, to great paintings of 1913 and 1914, such as the Portrait of Iturrino and the composition of four male figures, Les Buveurs.” She also feels that the head is related to a provincial statue of the Virgin that Derain had in his studio, which was as much a source of formal inspiration as the Fang mask that had so influenced him (as well as Picasso) a bit earlier.  But the relationship of this image to that Fang mask, and other African sources of cubism, also seems apparent.

During World War I much of the dealer Henry Kahnweiler’s stock (including a large number of works by artists including Derain and Picasso) was sequestered by the state and later sold for war reparations. In 1923 only 11 impressions of Tete de Femme, a pre-war print, remained in Kahnweiler’s stock (according to Lee), which may well have been trial proofs outside of any edition (no edition, or edition size, is recorded).  The brilliance of this impression, and the condition of this print, surely printed before the plate was beveled, with the resulting weakened plate marks, strongly suggests that this is a proof impression, as does the inscription to Alice Derain, the artist’s wife.