Thursday, August 20

What is Fauves and Fauvism?

I’m currently reading a biography about Diego Rivera about which I’ll blog at some future date. About one-third of the way through, in a chapter covering Rivera's early art days in Paris, there is mention of the Fauves with an appending asterisk.

At the bottom of the page the asterisk refers to a statement, which mentions a group of painters showing their paintings of exceptionally bright colors that were exhibited at the Salon d’automne in 1905. It also said fauve meant wild beast. I think that is interesting.

Now, I had seen the term Fauvism in my art readings, but not being an art history major (at all), it was one of those non-English art terms that I filed somewhere in the back of my brain under Will Research That One of These Days.

Yesterday was One of These Days. I added Fauvism to the section of the blog over there in the right-hand column I call Artist "Factoids." It’s where I put art terms with which I’m not that familiar, so that I may learn them. My hope is that others find this useful, too. By the way, researching the terms is relatively easy; writing a brief sentence or two that defines each term is more difficult.

Anyway, I added Fauvism. Here's what I said:“a post-Impressionist art movement by a group of painters in Paris around 1905 that emphasized modernism and exceptionally bright colors; from the French word 'fauve,' which means wild beast.”

Henri Matisse, whom I like to quote, was the leader of Les Fauves (the Wild Beasts), which the painters in the movement were called.

Why were they called that? Well, according to the National Gallery of Art website (and I’m paraphrasing), when Matisse and some of his contemporaries wanted to exhibit their latest paintings with bold colors and emphatic brushstrokes at the Salon d’automne, they were first warned not to. Critics described their work as primitive, brutal, and violent, with one calling them Les Fauves, a name which stuck. Relenting, the Salon hung their works together in Room 7, also known as la cage (the cage). Clever.

Others painters recognized as being in Les Fauves are Georges Braque, Andre Derain, Raoul Dufy, Henri Manguin, Franz Marc, Kees Van Dongen, and Maurice d’Vlaminck. (If I've left anyone out, my apologies to their descendants.)

One site described the colors used as bold, vivid, and pure. I like that description, not only to describe the Fauve colors, but also to describe beautiful colors in paintings and art in general.

Fauvism is usually referred to as a movement. You never hear Impressionism called a movement, rather it’s the Impressionist era, so I'm guessing a movement must be a shorter period of time. In fact, the Fauvism movement was short-lived; the paintings described as Fauvism were painted generally between 1904 and 1908.

Little known fact: the Fauves are also an Australian rock band. Who would have thought?


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