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Movements, Styles, and Tendencies Fauvism

Fauvism

Fauvism Collage

Started: 1899

Ended: 1908

"If the trees look yellow to the artist, then painted a bright yellow they must be."

Paul Gauguin Signature

Summary

Fauvism, the first 20th-century movement in modern art, was initially inspired by the examples of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and Paul Cézanne. The Fauves ("wild beasts") were a loosely allied group of French painters with shared interests. Several of them, including Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, and Georges Rouault, had been pupils of the Symbolist artist Gustave Moreau and admired the older artist's emphasis on personal expression. Matisse emerged as the leader of the group, whose members shared the use of intense color as a vehicle for describing light and space, and who redefined pure color and form as means of communicating the artist's emotional state. In these regards, Fauvism proved to be an important precursor to Cubism and Expressionism as well as a touchstone for future modes of abstraction.

Key Ideas

One of Fauvism's major contributions to modern art was its radical goal of separating color from its descriptive, representational purpose and allowing it to exist on the canvas as an independent element. Color could project a mood and establish a structure within the work of art without having to be true to the natural world.
Another of Fauvism's central artistic concerns was the overall balance of the composition. The Fauves' simplified forms and saturated colors drew attention to the inherent flatness of the canvas or paper; within that pictorial space, each element played a specific role. The immediate visual impression of the work is to be strong and unified.
Above all, Fauvism valued individual expression. The artist's direct experience of his subjects, his emotional response to nature, and his intuition were all more important than academic theory or elevated subject matter. All elements of painting were employed in service of this goal.
Detail of <i>Still Life with Dance</i> (1909) by Henri Mattise

Born to a family of weavers, and growing up in Bohain-en-Vermandois, as a child Henri Mattise was influenced by the bright colors and patterns of local textiles. His primal feeling for color (the very basis of Fauvism) was reawakened when, as a young man he returned home to convalesce from appendicitis, and his mother gave him a paint box. He later said, "From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges toward the thing it loves."

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