Fauvism 1905 – 1907

Movement in French painting from c1898 to 1906 characterized by a violence of colours, often applied unmixed from commercially produced tubes of paint in broad flat areas, by a spontaneity and even roughness of execution and by a bold sense of surface designIt was the first of a succession of avant-garde movements in 20th-century art and was influential on near-contemporary and later trends such as Expressionism, Orphism and the development of abstract art

Fauvism is the style of les Fauves (French for “the wild beasts”), a loose group of early twentieth-century modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational or realistic values retained by ImpressionismWhile Fauvism as a style began around 1900 and continued beyond 1910, the movement as such lasted only a few years, 1904–1908, and had three exhibitionsThe leaders of the movement were Henri Matisse and André Derain

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Besides Matisse and Derain, other artists included Albert Marquet, Charles Camoin, Louis Valtat, the Belgian painter Henri Evenepoel, Maurice Marinot, Karl Pärsimägi, Jean Puy, Maurice de Vlaminck, Henri Manguin, Raoul Dufy, Othon Friesz, Georges Rouault, Jean Metzinger, Rik Wouters, the Dutch painter Kees van Dongen and Georges Braque (subsequently Picasso’s partner in Cubism)

Gustave Moreau was the movement’s inspirational teacher;a controversial professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and a Symbolist painter, he taught Matisse, Marquet, Manguin, Rouault and Camoin during the 1890s, and was viewed by critics as the group’s philosophical leader until Matisse was recognized as such in 1904Moreau’s broad-mindedness, originality and affirmation of the expressive potency of pure color was inspirational for his studentsMatisse said of him, “He did not set us on the right roads, but off the roadsHe disturbed our complacency”This source of empathy was taken away with Moreau’s death in 1898, but the artists discovered other catalysts for their development

In 1896, Matisse, then an unknown art student, visited the artist John Peter Russell on the island of Belle Île off the coast of BrittanyRussell was an Impressionist painter; Matisse had never previously seen an Impressionist work directly, and was so shocked at the style that he left after ten days, saying, “I couldn’t stand it any more”The next year he returned as Russell’s student and abandoned his earth-colored palette for bright Impressionist colors, later stating, “Russell was my teacher, and Russell explained color theory to me”Russell had been a close friend of Vincent van Gogh and gave Matisse a Van Gogh drawing

In 1901, Maurice de Vlaminck encountered the work of Van Gogh for the first time at an exhibition, declaring soon after that he loved Van Gogh more than his own father; he started to work by squeezing paint directly onto the canvas from the tubeIn parallel with the artists’ discovery of contemporary avant-garde art came an appreciation of pre-Renaissance French art, which was shown in a 1904 exhibition, French PrimitivesAnother aesthetic influence was African sculpture, of which Vlaminck, Derain and Matisse were early collectors

Many of the Fauve characteristics first cohered in Matisse’s painting, Luxe, Calme et Volupté (“Luxury, Calm and Pleasure”), which he painted in the summer of 1904, whilst in Saint-Tropez with Paul Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross

After viewing the boldly colored canvases of Henri Matisse, André Derain, Albert Marquet, Maurice de Vlaminck, Kees van Dongen, Charles Camoin, and Jean Puy at the Salon d’Automne of 1905, the critic Louis Vauxcelles disparaged the painters as “fauves” (wild beasts), thus giving their movement the name by which it became known, FauvismThe artists shared their first exhibition at the 1905 Salon d’AutomneThe group gained their name after Vauxcelles described their show of work with the phrase “Donatello chez les fauves” (“Donatello among the wild beasts”), contrasting their “orgie of tones” with a Renaissance-style sculpture that shared the room with themHenri Rousseau was not a Fauve, but his large jungle scene The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope was exhibited near Matisse’s work and may have had an influence on the pejorative usedVauxcelles’ comment was printed on 17 October 1905 in Gil Blas,a daily newspaper, and passed into popular usageThe pictures gained considerable condemnation—”A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public”, wrote the critic Camille Mauclair (1872–1945)—but also some favorable attentionThe painting that was singled out for attacks was Matisse’s Woman with a Hat; this work’s purchase by Gertrude and Leo Stein had a very positive effect on Matisse, who was suffering demoralization from the bad reception of his workMatisse’s Neo-Impressionist landscape, Luxe, Calme et Volupté, had already been exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in the spring of 1905