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The Fauve School

The Fauve School of painting was the first artistic movement of the 20th Century. It's work emphasizes bright colors embellishing representational forms. The result is striking and at the same time evokes strong emotions.

The artistic style derived from a group of young artists living in Paris in the early 1900s. Henri Matisse and Albert Marquet established an art studio near the river Seine. They fell under the influence of Gustave Moreau who was a great proponent of infusing the imagination into a work.1 This infusion, influenced by the work of Gaugin, Van Gogh, and Seurat, especially took the form of color with Matisse and his friends (including Maurice de Vlaminck and Andre Derain).

Besides bright colors, bold lines and brush strokes were also important, perhaps accentuating the essential and subsuming the trivial. The idea was to implement radical techniques, add freedom of expression, while at the same time retaining a grasp of the representational. With the Fauve school, unlike the abstract, one is seldom in doubt about the object of the painting, if not always what it means.

The name for the Fauve School is derived from a comment made by art critic Louis Vauxcelles. He attended an exhibition in 1905 at the Paris Salon d’Automne. In a room with a few classical sculptures hung the paintings of this young group including Camoin, Derain, Manguin, Marquet, Matisse, and Vlaminck. He tossed off the witty comment, "Donatello parmi les fauves." This translates to, "Donatello among the beasts".2

Some say that the Fauve movement was not a "school" in the sense that it was not motivated by a unified philosophy as much as by a feeling and a general style. Also, it had a short life-span. The demand for the style was petering out by 1908. The artists began to move in differing directions. Even so, the movement had a great influence on Picasso and Cubism, as well as German Expressionism.3

So what is the status of the Fauve School today? There are artists who still use techniques developed by Fauvists. However, the artists themselves may be fading into the background of art history. A great landscape by Maurice de Vlaminck called the "L'étang de Saint Cucufa" (The pond at Saint Cucufa) did not even get a bid at a Sotheby's auction in 2007.3 Yet its bright and striking images still evoke an emotional response today.

  1. Virtualology
  2. Notes on Fauvism
  4. Modern Art Sales

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