- A beginner's guide to Fauvism
- Fauve Landscapes and City Views
- André Derain, The Dance
- Matisse, Luxe, calme et volupté
- Henri Matisse, Open Window, Collioure
- Matisse, Bonheur de Vivre
- Matisse, Dance I
- Matisse, The Red Studio
- Matisse, The Red Studio
- Matisse, Goldfish
- Matisse, "The Blue Window"
- Matisse, Piano Lesson
- Matisse, Piano Lesson
- Matisse, The illustrated book, “Jazz”
- Conserving Henri Matisse's "The Swimming Pool"
- Fauvism and Matisse
A beginner's guide to Fauvism
Fauvism developed in France to become the first new artistic style of the 20th century. In contrast to the dark, vaguely disturbing nature of much fin-de-siècle, or turn-of-the-century, Symbolist art, the Fauves produced bright cheery landscapes and figure paintings, characterized by pure vivid color and bold distinctive brushwork.
When shown at the 1905 Salon d’Automne (an exhibition organized by artists in response to the conservative policies of the official exhibitions, or salons) in Paris, the contrast to traditional art was so striking it led critic Louis Vauxcelles to describe the artists as “Les Fauves” or “wild beasts,” and thus the name was born.
One of several Expressionist movements to emerge in the early 20th century, Fauvism was short lived, and by 1910, artists in the group had diverged toward more individual interests. Nevertheless, Fauvism remains signficant for it demonstrated modern art’s ability to evoke intensely emotional reactions through radical visual form.
The expressive potential of color
The best known Fauve artists include Henri Matisse, André Derain, and Maurice Vlaminck who pioneered its distinctive style. Their early works reveal the influence of Post-Impressionist artists, especially Neo-Impressionists like Paul Signac, whose interest in color’s optical effects had led to a divisionist method of juxtaposing pure hues on canvas. The Fauves, however, lacked such scientific intent. They emphasized the expressive potential of color, employing it arbitrarily, not based on an object’s natural appearance.
In Luxe, calm et volupté (1904), for example, Matisse employed a pointillist style by applying paint in small dabs and dashes. Instead of the subtle blending of complimentary colors typical of Neo-Impressionism Seurat, for example, the combination of firey oranges, yellows, greens and purple is almost overpowering in its vibrant impact.
Similarly, while paintings such as Vlaminck’s The River Seine at Chantou (1906) appear to mimic the spontaneous, active brushwork of Impressionism, the Fauves adopted a painterly approach to enhance their work’s emotional power, not to capture fleeting effects of color, light or atmosphere on their subjects. Their preference for landscapes, carefree figures and lighthearted subject matter reflects their desire to create an art that would appeal primarily to the viewers’ senses.
Paintings such as Matisse’s Bonheur de Vivre (1905-06) epitomize this goal. Bright colors and undulating lines pull our eye gently through the ideallic scene, encouraging us to imagine feeling the warmth of the sun, the cool of the grass, the soft touch of a caress, and the passion of a kiss.
Like many modern artists, the Fauves also found inspiration in objects from Africa and other non-western cultures. Seen through a colonialist lens, the formal distinctions of African art reflected current notions of Primitivism–the belief that, lacking the corrupting influence of European civilization, non-western peoples were more in tune with the primal elements of nature.
Blue Nude (Souvenir of Biskra) of 1907 shows how Matisse combined his traditional subject of the female nude with the influence of primitive sources. The woman’s face appears mask-like in the use of strong outlines and harsh contrasts of light and dark, and the hard lines of her body recall the angled planar surfaces common to African sculpture. This distorted effect, further heightened by her contorted pose, clearly distinguishes the figure from the idealized odalisques of Ingres and painters of the past.
The Fauves interest in Primitivism reinforced their reputation as “wild beasts” who sought new possibilities for art through their exploration of direct expression, impactful visual forms and instinctual appeal.
Essay by Dr. Virginia B. Spivey
Want to join the conversation?
- Why are some paintings painted using the dashes or dots of paint and others are painted normally?(2 votes)
- The essay states, "Bright colors and undulating lines pull our eye gently through the ideallic scene..." and by doing this we, as the viewers, are inspired to imagine and experience what is dipicted in the painting. This creates a more authentic reaction to art that is personalized.(6 votes)
- Why were people who just wanted to express themselves through bright and vivid colors considered to be wild beasts?(1 vote)
- At that time, painting was very representational not so much conceptual, they were considered "wild beasts" becuase they were smashing and rearranging what art was at the time. For a long time, up until the impressionists, painting was a means of reproduction or pre-photography, and during this movement they wanted to make art more than just a means of reproduction of representation.(9 votes)
- Why do they paint the people in all different colors?(2 votes)
- Colors in Fauvism art are used to project moods or create structure in not representing the real world. People are probably painted in different colors to emphasize that the painting is the artists impression of something in the real world or to show that people on the painting have certain (or different) moods. (http://www.theartstory.org/movement-fauvism.htm first key idea)(4 votes)
- what is the difference between pop art and fauvism??(1 vote)
- Putting it succinctly, Several Decades and an ocean. Fauvism was early 20th century in France, Pop started in the 1960s in America.(6 votes)
- why did they make werid pictures like that(1 vote)
- When people used to ask "What is it suppose to be?" about what I painted, my answer was it is a painting Paintings became expressions of what the mind could perceive without being locked into representational renderings and, therefore, painting may have been an effort to be independent of the photographic images that came on the scene at the time. Weird is in the eye of the beholder that has been conditioned to expect only the conventional. The modern painting movements produced artistic visions and expressive explorations to elicit viewers to emote or question by challenging limited expectations.(3 votes)
- why does nude have to be in a painting.(1 vote)
- The Fauvists were "beasts", that is, crude when compared to the genteel artists of the time.
They wanted to shock.
Nudes have been part of art since antiquity. They were just doing what had always been done in their own beastly style.(5 votes)
- What was the inspiration behind creating such "cheery" and vivid Fauvism art during the time of Symbolist art?(2 votes)
- it was the color that they wonted to play with because they were tired of the old way of painting(2 votes)
- The way they use the different colors were not at all what I thought the colors were for.(1 vote)
- I liked the new use of the wild bright colors and the way the forms were done . It made the painting more intersting and more alive.(4 votes)
- In the pictures, there is always a person in it. Why is that exactly?(1 vote)
- People are very interesting, and most of us are people. It could be a case of self .(2 votes)
- Why did the artists choose the colors they chose?(1 vote)
- It was the colores that each artist liked that he used in his painting to convey his style(1 vote)