Part 1 Introduction to Fauvism – origins
Part 2 Second part of an animated slide show of significant Fauvist works from around 1905 – 1907. Matisse, Vlaminck, Derain, Braque, Manguin, Marquet, Gauguin, Camoin, Friesz and others.
Characteristics of Fauvism
Fauvism continued the naturalism of the Impressionists and reflected the influence of Vincent Van Gogh, especially in the work of André Derain. In a series of paintings by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and André Derain (1880-1954), completed in the small town outside of Paris, there was a new conception of light that separated colours, allowing the white canvas to glow through. Borrowed from Paul Cézanne, the unexpected source of light was combined with a renewal of subjectivity after the “objectivity” of Impressionism. The Fauves remained a disparate group of artists. Their identity as a group only grew over time. Fauvism was not a group that was purposefully formed, neither did they produce a manifesto defining their artistic aims What united them was their explicit focus on the use of colour as a means of emotive expression.
Name: Fauvism was named by Parisian art critic Louis Vauxcelles in his review of the 1905 Salon d’Automne: “Donatello au milieu des fauves!” (“Donatello among the wild beasts!”). The remark was made in reference to a room in the salon in which a classical-looking statue by Albert Marquet was surrounded by paintings by Matisse and others.
Artists: Henri Matisse, Georges Roualt, André Derain, and Maurice de Vlaminck.
When: c. 1905-1908.
What: First modern movement of the 20th century in style and attitude. Movement composed of a number of individual styles. Bold colour was a unifying element among the Fauves.
Subject Matter: Images of contemporary life (influence of Impressionism) landscapes, cityscapes, and scenes of bourgeois leisure.
Style: Violently contrasting, non-descriptive colours, and flat patterns.
We are about to embark on a new phase. Without partaking of the abstraction apparent in van gogh’s canvases, abstraction which I don’t dispute, I believe that lines and colors are intimately related and enjoy a parallel existence from the very start, allowing us to embark on a great independent and unbounded existence…Thus we may find a field, not novel, but more real, and, above all, simpler in its synthesis… André Derain
What I dream of, he famously said in Notes of a Painter, is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from Physical fatigue. – Matisse
Characteristics of Fauvism
1. Subject Matter/ Themes: Industrialization and urbanization was fully developed and technology and mechanization was beginning to dominate modern life and dictate the future. In reaction the Fauvists’ painting reflects a longing for an ideal golden age, long lost but re-found in the imagination.The “primitivism” of Fauvism is not just the artists’ interest in African tribal art, but also in subjects that seems to depict that lost joyful innocence of a simpler life. Most of the paintings were of still lives, rural settings, forests, portraits, especially women, and dance. In most urban settings man-made buildings were off-set by some natural idyllic element like a river or trees,
2. Emotions and Feelings: The artists sought to express their personal feelings and move away from traditional academic techniques and conventions in painting. The feelings they expressed were a reflection of how they imagined an ideal unspoilt life will feel like – joyous and innocent. How the artist felt about a subject were paramount. The term “pictorial autonomy” is often used to describe Fauvist paintings, which means that a new or imagined reality exists inside the painting, independently from the outside reality. This can be seen in Matisse’s Harmony in Red where the pattern on the table cloth feels like it has become alive and dominates the picture.
3. Context: The way they interpreted a subject was through their personal emotions rather than showing how it is objectively. To the Fauvists it did not matter whether color is right, because color reflected their subjective inner vision. Fauvists for example used unnatural colour combinations in their works to elicit a variety of emotional responses. Their use of colour did not abide by any laws, but it was more a way for the fauvists to depict their own emotions on the canvas. In this respect Fauve art can also be seen as a form of expressionism, although they did not delve into the darker emotions as did the German Expressionists. They used whatever colour that best expressed an emotion or feeling, as can be seen in Matisse’s Green Stripe.
In traditional art, both form and color are “right” or representational. The artist starts with form and the form determines the colour. Colour follows form; the artist cannot start with color. The traditional artist cannot use colour alone as a means of expression. Matisse’s expressive use liberated colour, so that it is no longer determined by form. His colour looks for a sensation that represents his subjective vision and state of mind. Therefore, it could be unnatural or non-representational. For the spectator, Matisse’s form may seem right but his colour may seem wrong, because it is not used to convey likeness, but rather sensation. As Matisse put it, “When I put a green, it is not grass. When I put a blue, it is not the sky.”
4. Colour: Although Edouard Manet had long since done away with demi-teints (half-tones), the Fauve artists presented a new and purified form of colour painting, based on a light created through contrasts of hue, not of tone. The result was a highly coloured assertive surface, organized as a graphic design with strongly contrasting areas of colour. The artists established areas and zones of sometime dissonant colour. Local colour was rejected in favour of arbitrary colour: tree trunks were red, outlined in dark purple, the sky is yellow and green, and the background heaves upward with undulating shapes. Later on, by 1906, the colour juxtapositions were replaced with areas of flat colour, similar to Gauguin. Fauvists used pure and unblended colours in a way that has nothing to do with how the human eye views an object, person or a landscape.
5. Form: Simplistic forms of their motifs, lack of detail, extremely simplified and distorted drawing, were characteristic of their rejection of expressing reality as it is. They emphasized the use of intense colour as a vehicle for describing light and space, but also for communicating emotion.
6. Texture: Impressionist harmonies and the uniformity of the texture of the surface, were eliminated in favour of deliberate dis-harmonies of style and colour. Fauve art paintings are dominated by bold, undisguised brushstrokes or markings. You can clearly see the strokes the painters used to apply colour to the painting. As a result, transition between adjacent colours is quite abrupt, as it is evident on Andre Derain’s portrait of Henri Matisse from 1905.
The pure and unmixed colours were intensified further by applying thick daubs and smears. In Matisse’s Open Window at Collioure, for example, brush strokes also takes on a symbolic meaning; each level of space is characterized by a different type of brush-stroke. In this painting the brush stroke becomes a metaphor for the quality of time associated with the type of space. Flat areas of paint are used for the interior and architectonic spaces which have static time; curved short strokes for the plants around the window, and horizontal and vertical dashed lines for the ships at sea.
In the Mountains at Collioure by Andre Derain you can see the repetitive brush strokes which which gave the Fauves’ paintings a very rough, unfinished look compared to the other artwork at that time. You can also clearly see the influence of van Gogh’s brush stroke.
7. Perspective: Their disregard of three-dimensionality does not refer to disregard of perspective, as fauvist painters made use of the technique to depict depth in objects and landscapes. Instead, the issues that weakened the perception of depth on fauvist paintings were the seemingly autonomous bold strokes and the lack of subtle shading. This characteristic derives from the fact that fauvists’ priority was not the accurate representation of a surface’s appearance.In for example Green Stripe, Matisse used solid colours throughout, and used the intensity of his colours to create depth and shape.
Henri Matisse did several versions of his Joy of Life painting. In this version, the artist has used bold, flat, contrasting colors to create a work with much impact. His simplified figures with strong outlines . Foreshortening of perspective was also often used by Fauvists.
Definition: Foreshortening refers to the visual effect or optical illusion that an object or distanceappears shorter than it actually is because it is angled toward the viewer. Foreshortening occurs when an object appears compressed when seen from a particular viewpoint, and the effect of perspective causes distortion. Foreshortening is a particularly effective artistic device, used to give the impression of three-dimensional volume and create drama in a picture.
Foreshortening is most successful when accurately rendered on the picture plane to create the illusion of a figure in space.
8. Style/Composition The Fauves’ paintings were composed out of a reduction of the most basic and most powerful elements, drawing and colour. Their compositions were simplistic in form and made up of un-blended planes of bright and intense colour. Often in Fauvist paintings back ground and foreground are given the same focal point thus distorting the perspective, In for example Matisse’s “Open window at Collioure” the boats and the pot plants look like they are on the same plane of perspective – there isn’t a clear distinction between middleground and background, and in the Blue Nude the eye moves back and forth between the nude and background.
9. Light and Shadow: From Impressionism, the Fauve artists borrowed the negation of shadows by substituting intense colour for darkness. The resulting coloured shadows, that were really non-shadows, eliminated the academic division of tones.They emphasized the use of intense colour as a vehicle for describing light and space, but also for communicating emotion. In Matisse’s “Woman with a Hat” the light is for example suggested by the use of yellow in the background and on the face, rather than by the use of tints (white added) of the same colour as found in academic painting.
10. Line: Fauvists used expressive line – they did not use line to imitate the real, but like their use of colours, used line to express a feeling or the emphasize a form, or a shape that contributed to the feeling of a painting. Thick black Line, which often outlined forms were filled in with intense colours. Line was also often use as a decorative means as is seen in Andre Derain’s Dance or in Matisse’s Harmony in Red.