fauvism art

Fauvism Art – Possibly the Shortest Period in Painting

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At the beginning of the 20th century, a new art movement took shape: Fauvism. We will explore who shaped this style, how it came about, and why the movement of the “Fauves” only lasted for about three years.



What is Fauvism?


Fauvism Characteristics

Fauvism is a style of classical modernism in painting, which is characterized by intense colors and an approach with rough strokes and highly simplified representation. The precursor of Fauvism was Impressionism. This new approach to painting was influenced by the French artists Henri Matisse and André Derain. The following features characterize the style of Fauve paintings:

  • Thick, wild brush strokes
  • Specific color scheme
  • Simplified forms
  • Certain designs


Thick, Wild Brush Strokes

The aim was not to paint as realistic a painting as possible. Thick, wild brushstrokes and reduction to the essential dominate this style.


Color Scheme

The use of colors was quite different from other styles. This was at the center of artistic creation. Although oil paints were also used, these were often applied directly from the paint tube onto the canvas. Color mixtures were achieved with brushstrokes of different pure colors. Hardly any paints were mixed before the actual painting process.

Above all, pure, bright colors predominate. Only very few painters also used muted tones. The colors were also used quite differently than was usual at the time: water was suddenly green and meadows blue.


Simplified Forms

In Fauvism, the reality was no longer in the foreground – quite in contrast to Impressionism. The sceneries came alive mainly from the colors and not from realistic depictions.



The subjects were numerous. From nude painting, portraits to objects, everything was represented. Nevertheless, the emphasis on nature scenes can be highlighted. Especially the landscapes of Southern France inspired the painters. Derain and Matisse were particularly taken with the luminosity of the landscapes there.

fauvism art
Harbor of Collioure by Hubertine Heijermans [Public Domain] (Title Image)


The Name “Fauve” Art

The name fauvism has its origin in the French word “fauves” – beasts. This expression originated in connection with the style at an exhibition in Paris in 1905. A group of artists exhibited their fauvism paintings there. A bust of the artist Albert Marque stood between the hanging paintings.

The art critic Louis Vauxcelles, who visited the exhibition, said that the beautiful bust is surrounded by Fauves – wild beasts. This was taken up in a newspaper article, which gave rise to the Fauves. At that time, the artists did not see themselves as a conspiratorial group developing a new style of art. Rather, they resisted being called Fauves and wanted to be perceived as individuals.



History of Fauvism

The history of the Fauve art is as intense as it is short. Below you will find a compact history from the beginning to the end on how Fauvism paintings cam about.


1904 – The Predecessors

The painters of the Fauve movement were between 20 – 30 years old at the time of the emergence of Fauvism paintings, and were born in a very stormy period. The defeat against Germany was still very fresh, Paris was shaken. All the painters of this period grew up in poor circumstances, which, probably in combination with the many political quarrels, had a significant influence on their creative work.

The movement around Henri Matisse began in 1904. He spent the summer with Paul Signac, who introduced him to Neo-Impressionism. Matisse was particularly enthusiastic about the use of color, which he taught his friend André Derain. From then on, the whole thing became independent.


1905 – The Birth of Fauvism

For the first time in 1905, all the Fauvist artists of the time exhibited together at the Herbstsalon. This was also the starting signal for many other joint exhibitions. Although the painters were criticized and most of them were disliked, some art dealers and collectors became aware of this new style. They recognized the potential.


1906 – The Fauves at the Zenith

Other artists such as Raoul Dufy, Othon Friesz, and Georges Braque were inspired by the new style and contributed works to it. Thus, exhibitions were held in 1906 together with the old guard of the Fauves. The highlight was the autumn salon in Paris.


1907 – The End of the Fauves

The artists of Fauvism were already developing in different directions by 1906. Matisse focused on the use of color and outlines over large areas. Braque, for his part, was a pioneer of Cubism, which emerged from Fauvism. As early as 1907, the Fauves disintegrated into different camps, with Cubism, in particular, being very popular. Although the Fauves turned to new styles, the art movement continued to inspire new generations of artists in the following decades.



Important People in Fauvism


Gustave Moreau

Gustave Moreau was a painter and a passionate teacher. He taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. What distinguished Moreau was his passion for imparting knowledge. He took a lot of time for his students, listened intently, and opened discussions with them. Moreau always encouraged everyone to develop their own individuality and style.

Accordingly, he attracted students who were lateral thinkers and were looking for more than the traditional. The influence and motivation of Gustave Moreau was repeatedly praised by the Fauves and therefore, in retrospect, cannot be rated highly enough.


Henri Matisse

No painter is mentioned as often in connection with Fauvism as Henri Matisse. He was also a pupil of Moreau and later found Pissaro as his advocate and support. Around 1900 he began to paint more and more simply and with more colors. He was extremely controversial in the art scene. Particularly the art critics saw his Fauve paintings as a nuisance. Henri Matisse Fauvism offers some of the most iconic work from this period.


André Derain

André Derain is often mentioned in the same breath as Matisse and is one of the best known Fauvism artists. He met Matisse in 1900, and they became friends. An artistic summer spent together in 1905 was the key to the development of the Fauvist style. Derain cultivated two different styles: the direct style with color in the foreground and a dynamic style with more form. André Derain was also significantly involved in Cubism.



Fauvism Artists

The following Fauvist artists have significantly influenced the style of Fauvism. These artists were all called Fauves, something which they were all against.

  • Henri Matisse
  • André Derain
  • Othon Friesz
  • Albert Marquet
  • Louis Valtat
  • Henri Manguin
  • Charles Camoin
  • Jean Puy
  • Maurice de Vlaminck
  • Kees van Dongen



Influences and What Happened Next

After most Fauves turned away from Cubism, the art movement of Fauvism was not yet at an end. Especially in Hungary, Spain, and Belgium, famous artists like Malevitch or Kandinsky were inspired by the movement. These artists also became pioneers for abstract painting.



Fauvism art was a brief, but highly important period.  Fauvism artists shaped a unique style that helped to define and inspire generations of painters to come after them. We hope that this short look into Fauvism has helped you to better understand artworks of this era.


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