Oil on canvas
With Three figures sitting on the grass, Derain displays an aggressive vitalism in his use of colour which is channelled into a new synthesis: here the figures are seen as though through a zoom lens against an imprecise background of contrasting strong colours – solid areas of green and blue areas against which the yellow bodies with their crude shadows etched in scarlet stand out. Their exaggeratedly long limbs and “primitive simplicity” (cf. Louis Vauxcelles) created by the impression of blindness which has wiped all the detail from their faces contribute to the expressive effectiveness of these “figures emerging from bright light”, testifying to the fact that his painting has become more primitive under the influence of the plasticity of Oceania. By late 1906, he was working on the favourite themes of Cézanne, of whom, according to Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1920), he would become one of the earliest interpreters and who “whose plastic and theoretical lessons he conveyed to others […]”. Derain made a conscious effort to convey space on a flat surface and to transpose relationships with depth to relationships with the surface […], even making light totally subservient to form. He went even further than Cézanne in the extent to which he revived this artistic technique which had been forgotten in western Europe since Fra Angelico”, notably through the expressiveness of his outlines: landscapes in the south of France, still lives and particularly female bathers “mottled in the manner of Cézanne” (Louis Vauxcelle).