Birmingham – Barber Institute of Fine Arts (A Portrait of Bartolomeo Savona by André Derain)

This painting was purchased by the Barber Institute in 1997, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Art Collections Fund. The notes located by the artwork suggest that this was painted in 1906 and it’s of Bartolomeo Savona, who was a Sicilian student staying in the same guest house as Derain when he was visiting London. In return for acting as a translator during a visit to the dentist, Derain painted the student in three sittings of twenty minutes. A very nice gift….

Derain was in London during 1906 as he was painting a series of artworks of the city, but he had a quite different style to previous painters. He created 30 artworks during his time in London, of which 29 of them are still in existence. Ambroise Vollard was the art dealer who suggested that Derain go to London, with the artist being 25 years of age at the time.

The artwork remained in the family of the sitter until it was sold in the 1990s and brought to Birmingham. There was a detailed article written about this painting in 1997 by Richard Verdi and he noted that the family were keen for the artwork to remain in the UK. It was also discovered during cleaning that there were traces of pink under sitter’s lapel, suggesting the Savona at first sat for the painting whilst in shirtsleeves.

I like the boldness of this artwork, it feels as though the painter had much sympathy for Savona and wanted to portray him in a youthful and positive light. It’s a colourful artwork and it’s the first that Derain is thought to have painted in London.