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  • Date :
  • 8/4/2004


Between 1901 and 1906, several comprehensive exhibitions were held in Paris, making the work of

Vincent van Gogh,Paul Gauguin, andPaul Cézanne widely accessible for the first time. For the painters who saw the achievements of these great artists, the effect was one of liberation and they began to experiment with radical new styles.Fauvism was the first movement of this modern period, in which color ruled supreme.

The advent of Modernism if often dated by the appearance of the Fauves in Paris at the Salon d"Automne in 1905. Their style of painting, using non-naturalistic colors, was one of the first avant-garde developments in European art. They greatly admired van Gogh, who said of his own work: ``Instead of trying to render what I see before me, I use color in a completely arbitrary way to express myself powerfully"". The Fauvists carried this idea further, translating their feelings into color with a rough, almost clumsy style.

Matisse was a dominant figure in the movement; other Fauvists included Vlaminck, Derain, Marquet, and Rouault. However, they did not form a cohesive group and by 1908 a number of painters had seceded toCubism.
Fauvism was a short-lived movement, lasting only as long as its originator, Henri Matisse (1869-1954), fought to find the artistic freedom he needed. Matisse had to make color serve his art, rather as Gauguin needed to paint the sand pink to express an emotion.

 The Fauvists believed absolutely in color as an emotional force. With Matisse and his friends, Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958) and André Derain (1880-1954), color lost its descriptive qualities and became luminous, creating light rather than imitating it. They astonished viewers at the 1905 Salon d"Automne: the art critic Louis Vauxcelles saw their bold paintings surrounding a conventional sculpture of a young boy, and remarked that it was like a Donatello ``parmi les fauves"" (among the wild beasts). The painterly freedom of the Fauves and their expressive use of color gave splendid proof of their intelligent study of van Gogh"s art. But their art seemed brasher than anything seen before.

During its brief flourishing, Fauvism had some notable adherents, including Rouault, Dufy, and Braque. Vlaminck had a touch of his internal moods: even ifThe River (c. 1910; 60 x 73 cm (23 1/2 x 28 3/4 in)) looks at peace, we feel a storm is coming. A self-professed ``primitive"", he ignored the wealth of art in the Louvre, preferring to collect the African masks that became so important to early 20th-century art.

Derain also showed a primitive wildness in his Fauve period--Charing Cross Bridge (1906; 80 x 100 cm (32 x 39 in)) bestrides a strangely tropical London-- though as he aged he quenched his fire to a classic calm. He shared a studio with Vlaminck for a while andThe River andCharing Cross Bridge seem to share a vibrant power: both reveal an unselfconscious use of color and shape, a delight in the sheer patterning of things. This may not be profound art but it does give visual pleasure.


Henri Matisse,

The Young Sailor, II (Jeune Marin), 1906, oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 31 7/8 inches, Gelman collection, Mexico City. This is one of several Matisse paintings exhibited in the very influentialArmory Show of 1913

Henri Matisse,

The Red Madras Headress (Mme Matisse: Madras Rouge), summer 1907, oil on canvas, 39 1/8 x 31 3/4 inches (99.4 x 80.5 cm), Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA. This too appeared in theArmory Show of 1913

Henri Matisse,

Green Stripe (Madame Matisse), 1905, oil andtempera on canvas, 15 7/8 x 12 7/8 inches (40.5 x 32.5 cm), Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Copenhagen

Henri Matisse,

Nude in a Wood (Study), 1905, oil on canvas, 16 x 13 inches, Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY. This is one of several Matisse paintings exhibited in the very influentialArmory Show of 1913

Albert Marquet (French, 1875-1947),

Bay of Naples, 1908, ?1930s, oil on canvas, 64.8 x 77.5 cm, Tate Gallery, London. The Tate is not clear whether this painting was made during Marquet"s fauvist period -- giving its date as "1908, ?1930s" -- but the colors are so naturalistic that it seems unlikely. For a while the boldness of his colors matched those of his friend, Henri Matisse. Regardless, these colors are comparable to those in Derain"s Houses of Parliament from the middle of that painter"s fauvist period

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