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12.3: Fauvism (1900 – 1935)

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  • Fauvism was one of the first avant-garde art movements at the turn of the 20th century. Artists used color unabashedly, without care, incredibly imaginative, leading to their name, Les Fauves (French for "wild beasts"). The freedom to paint in vivid exuberant colors and non-realistic traditions, gave way to the Fauvism movement from 1900 to 1910, with the intense Fauvism period of 1904-1908. The short-lived period was influential to modern artists, with Henri Matisse (1869-1954), the primary influence of the unusual style.

    Henri Matisse (1869-1954) painted his wife, Amelie as the Woman with a Hat (12.11), a painting fomenting the center of controversy and criticism during the Salon showing of 1905. One newspaper reporter used the phrase "Donatello chez les Fauves" (Donatello among the wild beasts), and the saying became the statement for this period, and one critic said, "A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public." Chilver, I. (2004). Fauvism, The Oxford Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press. Retrieved from

    The loose brushwork, vivid colors, and unfinished style shocked viewers, invoking an emotional response to the painting, which was exactly what the artists of the Fauvism period wanted. Blue Nude (12.12) reinforced the concept of 'shock value,' originally Matisse started the image as a sculpture; however, the work shattered, and he produced the concept as a painting. Atelier Rouge (12.13) was a later painting of his studio, actual images of the variety of objects he kept in his space painted in a flat style with little standard perspective. Matisse and Picasso became friends and lifelong competitors, both part of a larger group who frequently met with Gertrude Stein, Cezanne, Braque, and other writers, poets, and artists.

    Woman with a Hat
    12.11 Woman with a Hat
     Blue Nude
    12.12 Blue Nude
    Atelier Rouge
    12.13 Atelier Rouge

    A lifelong friend of Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet (1875-1947) painted in a more realistic style, yet still a freestyle with abstraction. Marquet used bright colors only in a realistic and naturalistic tone, painting mostly landscapes and some nudes. Most fauvism artists did not use any implied perspective; however, Marquet usually incorporated some natural perspective. Marquet used grayed colors and black to contrast with the lighter colors. In The Beach at Sainte-Adresse(12.14), he used calligraphic strokes to draw people as seen in the beachgoers, the few lines of black provided basic divisions and highlights in the painting.

    The Beach at Sainte-Adresse
    12.14 The Beach at Sainte-Adresse

    Another well-known Fauvism painter, Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), was an Italian artist who worked mainly in France. He was known for his portraits characterized by the elongation of the figures in Bride and Groom (12.15) and Portrait of Moise Kisling (12.16), their tilted faces similar to the way Cubist artists generally portrayed facial features. Modigliani drew excessively, sometimes up to 100 drawings a day, at other times he studied sculpture, traveling to Africa to study art and incorporating many African art characteristics displayed long heads and disproportioned structural features of his sculptures. Plagued with tuberculosis, he drank and abused alcohol to rid himself of the pain, unfortunately leading to his early death in 1920, leaving a wife and daughter.

     Bride and Groom
    12.15 Bride and Groom
    Portrait of Moise Kisling
    12.16 Portrait of Moise Kisling

    Alice Bailly (1872-1938) was a from Switzerland and moved to Paris, becoming friends with other modern painters. She started with wood carvings, and when Fauvism started, she began to experiment with the intense colors and unrealistic use of space. Her painting, Self-portrait (12.17), was revolutionary for an image of oneself, painted with elongated, arching lines using the reds and oranges of the Fauvists. After World War I, she returned to Switzerland and designed a new technique called 'wool paintings' using short pieces of yarn to apply the brushstrokes. Bailly also succumbed to tuberculosis, a common disease of the time.

    12.17 Self-portrait

    Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962) was a Russian artist who painted, designed costumes and sets, wrote, and illustrated. Although she was from a wealthy family, she was unable to attend traditional art schools as a woman and received her training from private studios. Early in her career, she associated with artists known as avant-garde, their early work dismissed at radical. Goncharova generally based her work on traditional Russian life, the peasants dancing the Khorovod(12.18), and many believe the style of Matisse influenced her.

    12.18 Khorovod