Art Movements Throughout History: Fauvism

This painting incorporates elements of Fauvism.

Fauvism is the name given to the work produced by a group of artists including Henri Matisse and André Derain from around 1905 to 1910, which is typified by strong colors and fierce brushwork. The fierce expression of color was to create a sense of explosion on canvas. The Fauvist paintings were formally exhibited in 1905 at the annual Salon d’Automne where visitors were shocked because of the boldness of the work. For this reason, critic Louis Vauxcelles dubbed the paintings as being the work of Fauves (“wild beasts”). The name stuck and is used to describe the work of Henri Matisse and other Fauve artists.

What Inspired Fauvism?

Fauvism was the first art movement in the twentieth century and was greatly influenced by the works of post-impressionism artists such as Van Gogh combined with the neo-impressionism of Seurat. The Fauves were a group of allied French painters who shared interests. Several of them were pupils of Symbolist artist, Gustave Moreau whose work emphasized on personal expression. Henri Matisse became the recognized leader of the Fauvism movement whose artists used intense color to describe light and space. Fauvism became an important precursor to Cubism and Expressionism and redefined pure color and form as means of communicating the artist's emotional state.

The Key Ideas of Fauvism

Fauvism was a radical method of expressing color and paint on the canvas. Color was used as a separate element from the usual descriptive and representational purpose. Color could also be used to project an emotional state and structure within a work of art by using unnatural representation. This helped create abstract forms.

The use of simplified forms and saturated colors was one of the central artistic themes whereby attention was drawn to the inherent flatness of canvas or paper. In this case, each element had a specific role in creating visual impressions. The visual appearance of the work is to be strong and unified.

More importantly, Fauvism was about individual expression. The artist’s emotional connection with nature, experience of his subjects, and inner expression were valued more than academic theory or elevated subject matter. All elements in their work were geared towards realizing this individual expression.

Famous works

Luxe, Calme et Volupte (1904)

Artist: Henri Matisse

The Luxe, Calme et Volupte painting was done by Henri Matisse and is most notable for the use of tiny dabs to create a visual frisson. Matisse uses concentrations of pure color such as orange, green, and yellow while maintaining their places on the picture plane. This early work shows the stylistic influences of Georges Seurat's Pointillism and Paul Signac's Divisionism on Henri Matisse especially in the tonality and harmonious merge of the colors. The work’s title translates as "luxury, peace, and pleasure," and was taken from Charles Baudelaire's poem L'Invitation au Voyage (Invitation to a Voyage).

The River Seine at Chatou (1906)

Artist: Maurice de Vlaminck

The painting depicts a scene in Chatou, a Paris suburb where a portion of river Seine runs. It is also where de Vlaminck and Derain shared a studio in the beginning of 1901. Maurice de Vlaminck used a technique called Impasto where thick daubs of paint are applied directly from the tube and brushed together in strokes to create the impression of movement. A range of blues and greens were used for water and the sky while dazzling white highlights were applied. Red and orange trees were introduced to create contrast. The finished effect was one of brightness and vibrant effect of motion.


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