From the Industrial Revolution to World War I, C. 1850–1914

Early Twentieth-Century Art

Who were the Fauves?

Considered the first modernist movement of the twentieth century, the so-called Fauves, or “Wild Beasts” were a loosely associated group of artists working in Paris who used bright, garish colors in an unusually expressive way. The group included Henri Matisse (1869–1954), Andre Derain (1880–1954), and Maurice de Vlaminck (1876–1958), among other artists known as “Fauvettes.” Their name came from French art critic Louis Vauxcelles, who was shocked by the brashness of the art on display at their Salon d’Automne in Paris in 1905. The Fauves used bold colors to express emotions, and they were inspired by Gauguin’s use of color and Seurat’s pointil-list experiments in which he placed divergent colors next to one another to make them pop. A good example of the Fauvist style is Matisse’s The Woman with the Hat (1905), a painting purchased by renowned modern art collectors Leo and Gertrude Stein. Matisse used loose brushstrokes and bright, seemingly inappropriate colors to construct the image of a woman holding a white fan and wearing a disproportionately large hat. The woman’s nose is composed of the same green color that is splashed across the background and her neck is deep orange. The Fauves were free from the restrictions of a realist color palette, and with this freedom they went on to experiment with other styles and helped to usher in twentieth-century modernism.


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