In the Post Impressionist period of the early 20th century, a group of artists experimented with bold, expressive color and defined brushstrokes. They were influenced by Vincent VanGogh and Paul Gaugin who had begun using more intense colors. Where the Impressionists had concentrated on capturing the effects of light, these artists moved toward using color for its own sake. The group because known as Les Fauves, French for “wild beasts” after a derisive remark from art critic Louis Vauxcelles. Leaders of the movement, Ande Derain and Herni Matisse, used brilliant reds and yellows to draw the eye and juxtaposition of complements (opposites on the color wheel) to create visual excitement. Other Fauves included Albert Marquet, Maurice de Vlaminck, and Raoul Dufy. Although Fauvism was short-lived, it was an important step toward cubism and expressionism.
I believe that Les Fauves only scratched the surface of the possibilities of combining expressive color with shapes inspired by the natural and built world. Today’s understanding of color theory and technical advances in art materials allow creative freedom beyond the reach of the early Fauves.
In future editions of the newsletter, we will explore works of both historical and contemporary Fauvist painters. If you have questions about Fauvism or know of contemporary Fauves, please post comments.