In 1906, the French painter André Derain was sent to London by his art dealer, Ambroise Vollard. His task, according to the Tate’s collection notes, was to “update, in Fauve style, the popular Thames views painted by Claude Monet a few years earlier.” So he did. Whereas Monet’s “The Thames below Westminster” was a murky, pointillist composition enveloped in fog, Derain’s “The Pool of London” brightened the Thames up with boats rendered in large blocks of primary colours. It is a classic scene, updated.
Now it’s Derain’s turn to have his work updated. His painting has been turned into a Minecraft map as part of the Tate Worlds project, which allows the game’s players to download maps and explore the environments that inspired famous paintings. The Tate Worlds: The Pool of London map allows you to walk around docks where commercial ships were unloaded, examine the Tower of London, and look out at London Bridge. Tate Worlds’ shapes are more jagged than Derain’s but they share his bright colour palette.
Though it is presented as an opportunity to explore Derain’s world, Tate Worlds: The Pool of London is a world of its own. It shares the buildings and geography of Derain’s painting but, by virtue of its visual language, that world seems completely different. This is as valuable a point as the one Tate Worlds set out to make. Locations may stay the same but our outlook on them changes. That’s why Vollard sent Derain to update Monet’s paintings. There’s no shame in this change. We will never get to live in Derain’s world because that world only existed on his canvases and in his head. Tate Worlds respects Derain’s original work by recognizing that it existed to be updated.