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Fauvism And Expressionism Comparison Essay

Fauvism, Cubism And German Expressionism Essay

The mystique of "The Primitive" was a very significant influence on early Twentieth Century art movements, especially Fauvism and Cubism. Artists were beginning to reject traditional painting styles, and the death of Queen Victoria was extremely significant. The invention of the camera meant that people were now able to take photographs. This meant that artists would not necessarily need to be employed in order to paint rich people's portraits.

The term "Fauvism" was coined by art critic, Louis Vauxcelles, who after seeing the 1905 Salon d'Automne exhibition in Paris, described the artists as "Les Fauves", meaning wild beasts. Fauvism was a relatively short movement, last only about three years. The artists involved belong to either Le Havre group, or Ecole des Beaux-Arts group.

Two of the main artists from this period were Henri Matisse and André Derain. They were influenced by the German Philosopher, Nietzche, as well as poetry written by Stephan Mallarme. Matisse studied under Gustave Moreau. Traditional and materialistic painting styles were rejected. Artists had begun to be influenced by primitive artworks, such as African masks, and there were also Egyptian, Iberian and Oceanic influences.

Henri Matisses's, "The Green Stripe" is a portrait of Madame Matisse. Sections of the painting are barely painted, and her face has a brilliant, intentional pea green stripe which has been painted from her forehead to her chin, dividing her face. The primitive influence is evident here, as her face has been painted using dark lines, looking very similar to an African mask. There is a slight oriental feel to Matisse's work, especially the patterns that have been used in "Harmony in Red".

André Derain's, "Westminster Bridge" has little perspective and makes strong use of juxtaposed colour and complimentary contrasts. His exciting use of blue and orange should be noted, as well as his use of green...

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Fauvism was the first of the avant-garde movements that flourished in France in the early years of the twentieth century. The Fauve painters were the first to break with Impressionism as well as with older, traditional methods of perception. Their spontaneous, often subjective response to nature was expressed in bold, undisguised brushstrokes and high-keyed, vibrant colors directly from the tube.

Henri Matisse (1869–1954) and André Derain (1880–1954) introduced unnaturalistic color and vivid brushstrokes into their paintings in the summer of 1905, working together in the small fishing port of Collioure on the Mediterranean coast (1975.1.194; 1982.179.29). When their pictures were exhibited later that year at the Salon d’Automne in Paris (Matisse, The Woman with a Hat, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), they inspired the witty critic Louis Vauxcelles to call them fauves (“wild beasts”) in his review for the magazine Gil Blas. This term was later applied to the artists themselves.

The Fauves were a loosely shaped group of artists sharing a similar approach to nature, but they had no definitive program. Their leader was Matisse, who had arrived at the Fauve style after earlier experimenting with the various Post-Impressionist styles of van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cézanne, and the Neo-Impressionism of Seurat, Cross, and Signac. These influences inspired him to reject traditional three-dimensional space and seek instead a new picture space defined by the movement of color planes (1999.363.38; 1999.363.41).

Another major Fauve was Maurice de Vlaminck (1876–1958), who might be called a “natural” Fauve because his use of highly intense color corresponded to his own exuberant nature. Vlaminck took the final step toward embracing the Fauve style (1999.363.84; 1999.363.83) after seeing the second large retrospective exhibition of van Gogh’s work at the Salon des Indépendants in the spring of 1905, and the Fauve paintings produced by Matisse and Derain in Collioure.

As an artist, Derain occupied a place midway between the impetuous Vlaminck and the more controlled Matisse. He had worked with Vlaminck in Chatou, near Paris, intermittently from 1900 on and spent the summer of 1905 with Matisse in Collioure. In 1906–7, he also painted some twenty-nine scenes of London in a more restrained palette (1999.363.18).

Other important Fauves were Kees van Dongen, Charles Camoin, Henri-Charles Manguin, Othon Friesz, Jean Puy, Louis Valtat, and Georges Rouault. These were joined in 1906 by Georges Braque and Raoul Dufy.

For most of these artists, Fauvism was a transitional, learning stage. By 1908, a revived interest in Paul Cézanne’s vision of the order and structure of nature had led many of them to reject the turbulent emotionalism of Fauvism in favor of the logic of Cubism. Braque became the cofounder with Picasso of Cubism. Derain, after a brief flirtation with Cubism, became a widely popular painter in a somewhat neoclassical manner. Matisse alone pursued the course he had pioneered, achieving a sophisticated balance between his own emotions and the world he painted (1984.433.16).

The Fauvist movement has been compared to German Expressionism, both projecting brilliant colors and spontaneous brushwork, and indebted to the same late nineteenth-century sources, especially the work of Vincent van Gogh. The French were more concerned with the formal aspects of pictorial organization, while the German Expressionists were more emotionally involved in their subjects.

Sabine Rewald
Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

October 2004

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