Fauvism, a new allegory of colors

Fauvism, a new allegory of colors
Isabel del Rio

Fauvism, a new allegory of colors and lights.

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At the start of the 20th century, a group of artists started a new approach to color in art. They were influenced by post-impressionist artists, especially by Paul Gauguin. Gauguin believed that color had almost mystical meaning and it could express our feelings and emotions rather than reflect a scene in a realistic way as artists were doing from the Renaissance. For example, in ‘Vision after the Sermon’, Gauguin painted Jacob wrestling with an angel, the background is red, a subjective red to create a blood field of combat and then, to emphasize the mood and subject of the sermon.

Fauvism. Woman with Hat, by Matisse

Fauvism. Woman with Hat, by Matisse

Fauvism. Vision after the Sermon, by Gauguin

Fauvism. Vision after the Sermon, by Gauguin

This break with the former use of color inspired younger artists to experiment with new possibilities for color in art: Henry Matisse and Andre Derain were the central figures. In 1905, they travelled together at Collioure and they started to look for a way where their strong colors suited well. Because at first glance, the apparent freedom of their style seems to deny any technique (both had studied in The Academy of Fine Arts in Paris with the symbolist artist Gustave Moreau). In Collioure, they discovered that using such exaggerated colors, they had to simplify the drawing and they understood that if they intensified the quality of color for expressive effect, they had to reduce the amount of detail used in drawing the shapes and forms of the painting.

Afterwards, in 1905, in an exhibition at the Salon d’Automne in Paris, the art critic Louis Vauxcelles entered the gallery where Matisse, Derain and other young artists as Henry Rousseau where showing their works of shockingly bold colors. In the center of that room was a Renaissance sculpture, and Vauxcelles, amused by the contrast, exclaimed: ‘Donatello in the middle of the wild beasts!’ (Donatello au mileau aux FAUVES). The name stuck for ever and Fauvism was born. Therefore, it was never a formal movement with a manifesto of rules. It was an instinctive coming together of artists (Maurice de Vlaminck, Albert Marquet, Georges Rouault, Raoul Dufy and or George Braque) who wanted to express themselves by using colors in a new way.

Of course, Matisse and Derain had bad critics but they caught attention and in spite the painting that was singled out for attacks, it was Matisse’s ‘Woman with a Hat’; it was bought by Gertrude and Leo Stein: very positive effect on the public, now they were two successful artists.

Fauvism. London, Saint Paul Cathedral, by Derain

Fauvism. London, Saint Paul Cathedral, by Derain

Then, the following year, Andre Derain was commissioned by Ambroise Vollard to paint a series of London. Usually, artists had painted London in pale colors and with a foggy atmosphere. However, Derain painted the city in a palette more suited to a Mediterranean holiday resort: thirty popular paintings along the river Thames, where he simplified again the drawing getting the conflicting colors didn’t result a disturbance of brushstrokes and the viewer will get dizzy. Nothing was the result of improvisation and Derain organized an arrangement of tones, employing the warm colors in the foreground, which gradually become weaker and cooler towards the background and which create and Aerial Perspective.

The duration of Fauvism was short, only three more exhibitions. However, Within a few years, Fauvist techniques were adopted and developed by the German Expressionists and their various splinter groups and its influence liberated the use of color for future Abstract art.

Video about Fauvist artwork



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