Born in Toulouse in September of 1907, Jacques-Charles Derrey was a French engraver, painter and educator. He spent most of childhood and youth from 1914 to 1929 in Nantes with his maternal grandfather Félix Pommier, a painter and the curator of the Musée des Beaux-Arts. As a student at the Georges Clemenceau high school in Nantes, Derrey won first prize in its 1925 general drawing competition. He began his formal art training at the École des Beaux-Arts in Nantes in 1927. Derrey relocated to Paris in 1930 and studied at its École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts under impressionist painter Lucien Simon and portraitist and engraver Louis Roger until his graduation in 1935.
In 1934, Derrey won the Prix Blumenthal, a stipend given to young French artists through the foundation supported by American philanthropist Florence Meyer Blumenthal. For his 1936 intaglio engraving “Job sur Son Fumier”, he was awarded the Grand Prix at the annual exhibition of the American Academy in Rome. For a period of three years beginning in 1937, Derrey was a resident at the French Academy in Rome located at the Villa Medici.
Jacques Derrey created twenty-five etchings for Belgian playwright and poet Maurice Masterlinck’s “Le Trésor des Humbles (The Humble Treasury)”, published in 1949 by Éditions Dancette. He produced illustrations, ten etchings and burin engravings, for the classic 1955 “Versailles”, which included historic text written by Louis XIV. Derry created original engravings for François-Albert Buisson’s 1960 “Le Cardinal de Retz: Portrait”, a biography of Jean François Paul de Gondi, an archbishop and agitator in the 1648 civil war in France.
Derrey also executed a series of illustrations depicting various aspects of an Lacq industrial plant owned by the National Society for Petroleum in Aquitaine. Starting in 1963, he provided engravings of stamp designs to be printed for several French departments and countries overseas, including Comoros, Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Senegal, Somalia, Upper Volta, and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.
Along with his work as an engraver, Jacques Derrey drew and painted, using oils and gouaches, numerous landscapes in Italy, Corsica and the French provinces of Bearn and Brittany. He also executed work in fresco, most notably the fresco murals in the church of Sainte Marguerite located in the Paris commune of Perreux-sur-Marne. Derry’s work was exhibited in many salons and galleries including the 1936 Salon des Artistes Français where he won a gold medal, the Salon Comparaisons, the Salon Terre Latines, the Mignon-Massart Gallery in Nantes and Paris’s Marseille Gallery, among others. Derrey was a regular participant at the exhibitions of the Association de Deux Rives from 1970 to 1975.
In 1950, Derrey was appointed a Professor at the School of Fine Arts in Valenciennes and, two years later, became its Director until 1956. At that time, he became Drawing Master at the École Polytechnique in Paris where he founded an engraving workshop. He taught his vision of painting and general art at the school until his retirement in 1973. An ardent defender of contemporary Classicism, he was the author of several articles published in the magazine “La Peintre” and through publications of the school.
Jacques-Charles Derrey was awarded the position of Laureate of the Institut de France in 1950 and named a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1958. He died in Paris in May of 1975. Major retrospectives of Derrey’s work entitled “Entre Deux Rives” were held in January and February of 1988 at the Municipal Center for the Arts in Valenciennes and at the Musée National du Château de Pau from November of 1997 to March of 1998. An exhibition “Four Generations: A Family of Painters”, which included the work of Derrey, his grandfather Félix Pommier, his mother Juliette, and his son Charles, was held in the towns of Pénestin in 2004 and Saint-Marc-sur-Mer in 2012.
Middle Insert Image: Jacques-Charles Derrey, “Les Volets Bleus”, Date Unknown, Oil on Canvas, 46 x 55 cm, Private Collection