The Moderns--2

[ Matisse and the Fauvists]


Henri Matisse (1869-1954) revolutionized European art at the turn of the century,
and no discussion of the late 19th or early 20th century art would be complete without assessing his towering influence.
At the Salon d'Automne Exhibition in 1905, Matisse's "strong simplified colors, slashing brush strokes,
and thick paint" led the critics to label him and his peers Les Fauves or Wild Beasts (
Witt 401).
"Fauvism was the first movement of this modern period in which color ruled supreme" as an "emotional force" (Pioch 1).
The art critic, Louis Vauxcelles, saw the cluster of bold, vivid paintings surrounding "a conventional sculpture of a young boy"
and wrote that the statue seemed to be "parmi les fauves" (surrounded by wild beasts) (
Pioch 1).
The group lasted only a few years and dissolved shortly thereafter, but the Fauvists left their mark!

While the influence of the Impressionists, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cézanne is clear, Matisse--like his predecessors-- defined a new direction for European art and artists. Matisse experimented with "strong, contrasting colors" as seen in "The Green Stripe," also known as "Portrait of Madame Matisse" that he completed in 1905. Art critics commented on the "astonishing force" of Matisse's art (webmuseum 1).

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Matisse's The Joy of Life (1905-1906) "sums up the spirit" or essence of Fauvism in its "radical simplicity," "flat planes of color," "undulating outlines," and "primitive flavor" (Janson 341). Some art historians consider it his finest work.

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Matisse painted Harmony in Red in 1908-1909, striking a "radical new balance between '2-D' and '3-D' aspects of painting..." (Janson 341). Here he demonstrates his "genius of omission"--"everything that possibly can be, has been left out or stated by implication only, yet the scene retains the essentials of plastic form and spatial depth" (341). "...[H]e spreads the same flat blue-on-red pattern on the tablecloth and the wall, yet he distinguishes the horizontal from the vertical planes with complete assurance...perfectly readable is the view of a garden with flowering trees, seen through the window.... [b]y reducing the number of tints to a minimum, he makes of color an independent structural element" (341).

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A familliar image (below) in our "Matisse gallery, Dance, painted in 1910.

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In 1913, the ever innovative Matisse returned to Paris from Morocco and
felt the influence of Cézanne and others such as Picasso, Braque, and the Cubists.
He began to experiment "with neutral shades, in particular blacks and grays,
as well as with geometric shapes and daringly austere compositions" (Vogel 2).
In the summer of 2010, an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York examined
the 1913-1917 period inMatisse's art, to see a "creative evolution" (Vogel 23).
The curators used state-of-the-art "digital imaging technicques,
laser scanning, ultraviolet" in their study of,
in particular Bathers by a River (Vogel 23).
Follow the link provided for an interactive feature on this work

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Other artists joined the Fauvists in Paris in the early years of the 20th century,
before moving on to other styles
. Okay you can skip Vlaminck and Dérain.
Maurice de Vlaminck
(1876-1958) and André Dérain (1880-1954)
used luminous color in ever more experimental ways, "creating light rather than imitating it" (Pioch 1).

Vlaminck had a checkered career as an athlete, printmaker, musician, poet, novelist, joining the Fauvists at their very outset, showing at the famous Salon d'Automne in 1905. "The River," though painted in 1910, encapsulates his signature style.

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André Derain painted "Charing Cross Bridge" in 1906, portraying the familiar landmark in a "strangely tropical London." He began to study painting as a teenager and journeyed to Paris in 1900, where he met up with Matisse and Vlaminck. He became an enthusiastic Fauvist.

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Vogel, Carol. "High-Tech Matisse." Arts & Leisure--The New York Times. Sunday,
July 11, 2010. Online available.
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