Fauvism – 6 Interesting Facts

Fauvism is one of the first Modern art movements that took place during the turn of the 20th century.  The Fauvists’ dramatic and eye-catching masterpieces reestablished Paris as a center of art. Their groundbreaking use of color also inspired later art movements, especially Expressionism. Behind this brief yet renowned period, here are the following facts.

1. “Fauvism” was a derogatory term embraced by its artists.

  • Louis Vauxcelles coined the term during the 1905 Salon d’Automne. The name stems from the French word fauves, meaning “wild beasts”.
  • Vauxcelles used “fauves” to describe the lurid paintings surrounding a traditional sculpted bust. He called the latter “Donatello among the wild beasts.”

2. Fauvism, in the strictest sense, is not actually a movement.

  • The Fauves were but a loose group painters inspired by the Post-Impressionists. All were French and many were students of Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau.
  • It had no group manifesto, written guidelines, or exclusive exhibitions. It is more accurate to use the term in reference to the period when Fauve art was fashionable.

3. Fauvism’s foremost goal is to represent individual expression.

  • Artists used colors to project their personal mood towards a subject rather than realism. A tree may be blue, the sky may be orange and a face may be green.
  • To further express emotion, Fauves applied paint straight from the tube. They created forms using directional and energetic strokes.

4. Fauve artworks used simplified forms, inspiring Cubism.

  • Henri Matisse, the founder of Fauvism, refused to paint details. He claimed such embellishments reduced emotional intensity and the purity of lines.
  • He chose to paint flat planes of color, relying on strokes and color choice to give energy to his works.

5. The Fauves enjoyed collaboration.

  • Like the Impressionists, the artists united under similar principles  and exchanged ideas. Many fauves shared studios and even traveled together.
  • The Fauves debuted when Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, and André Derain exhibited together in 1905. Two years later, “The Fauves’ Den” served as the main attraction at the Salon des Indépendants.

6. The most popular Fauve painting is “The Green Stripe” (also known as “Portrait of Madame Matisse”).

  • The model in the painting is Henri Matisse’s wife, Amélie Noellie. Matisse depicted her wearing a red dress, though she posed for the portrait wearing black.
  • The work takes its name from the unusually-colored stripe that runs from Amélie’s hairline to her neck. The line bisects her face into warm and cool colors, demonstrating the Fauve style.

Fauve uses vivid and pure colors to show personal expression rather than to replicate reality. The style revolutionized the role and value of color in painting.