FAUVISM The ‘Wild Beasts’ 1904-07 Fauvism in Context and Henri Matisse
The term ‘fauve’ is French for ‘wild beast’.
It was first used by a critic in Paris in 1905 to deride the work of a group of artists who used colour and paint with great freedom; distorting the natural appearance of their subjects. Their ideas were similar to post-Impressionist like Gauguin and Van Gogh, but their use of colours were much more loose.
Although the Fauve artists shared many interests and ideas for a short period (1904-07), they were never a formal group and each worked in a highly individual style.
1905 was the year that the Salon d’Automne happened.
Critics saw the canvases in front of them not as art, but rather as an ‘explosion of violence’ on the canvas.
As one critic, Camille Mauclair, said “[It is] a pot of colours flung in the face of the public.”
Fauvism came via three principal groups:
Students of Moreau’s studio and the Académie Carrière (Matisse, Camoin, Manguin, Puy).
Two from Chatou: Vlamich and Derain.
Three from Le Harve: Friesz, Dufy, Braque.
Matisse became the leader of these young artists because of his prestige, outgoingness, and age.
Henri Mattisse (1869-1954)
The Master of Colour
He was born in Picardy, northern France and did not delve into art until he was 20 (he was initially going to study law.
He moved to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and in Moreau’s studio.
His mentor said to Matisse that, “You are going to simplify painting.”
Matisse was slower and more methodical in his approach to art where he focused his study on light and texture within a limited palette. This allowed him to later overcome problems of colour and surface patterning.
Matisse's art has an astonishing force and lives by innate right in a paradise world into which Matisse draws all his viewers. He gravitated to the beautiful and produced some of the most powerful beauty ever painted.
He was a man of anxious temperament and fears. He dealt with his disturbances through the sublimation of painting. Matisse coaxed his nervous tension into serenity through his art.
He spoke of his art as being like "a good armchair"-- a ludicrously inept comparison for such a brilliant man-- but his art was a respite, a reprieve, and a comfort to him .
Matisse has left Moreau’s studio for a short while to study abroad and when he returned his mentor was no longer there, so he took to the museum’s and streets and painted the world he was a part of.
Most interesting is that he lived through traumatic political events, the worst wars, the most demented rivalries of ideology yet he never made an expression of political opinion anywhere in his art or writings.
Gustav Moreau, The Apparition 1891 Gustav Moreau, Salom è 1876
Moreau was a French Symoblist painter, who painted literary ideas (espcially from the Bible) rather than visual images.
Moreau is quoted as saying:
"I am dominated by one thing, an irresistible, burning attraction towards the abstract. The expression of human feelings and the passions of man certainly interest me deeply, but I am less concerned with expressing the motions of the soul and mind than to render visible, so to speak, the inner flashes of intuition which have something divine in their apparent insignificance and reveal magic, even divine horizons, when they are transposed into the marvellous effects of pure plastic art."
Henri Matisse, Luxe, calm et volupte , 1904, Oil on canvas, 98 by 118.5cm
Luxe, calm et volupte
Shows the influence of post-impressionism –in particular his friend Signac but also the pointillism of Seurat.
Juxtaposition of dots or small strokes of primary colours methodically laid on canvas, his canvases are very composed and ordered.
Subtle combination of pinks, yellows and blues. He has not yet made the jump to the ‘wild’ use of colours that the Fauves came to be known for.
This painting was done in his Paris studio and was a break for Matisse from his ‘dark period’ of 1902-03.
Uses only the essentials of line and colour.
Paul Signac , Port St. Tropez ,1899 Henri Matisse, Luxe, calm et volupte , 1904
Nudes drastically simplified so that they take on a purely decorative function.
Questions the landscape tradition. Decorative rather than descriptive role.
Paintings from Matisse’s ‘Dark Period’ The Luxembourg Gardens. c. 1901-2. Studio under the Eaves. 1903. Still Life with Vase, Bottle and Fruit. c. 1903-6
1905 and the Salon d’Automne Open Window, Collioure. 1905 Woman with a Hat. 1905
La Japonaise: Woman beside the Water , 1905. 35 x 28 cm. Madame Matisse , “The Green Line”, 1905. 40 x 32cm
The Open Window
Painting of this period search for an equilibrium between nature and the imagination, and expression through balance and harmony.
It demonstrates a balance of interior/exterior space first and second a balance of colour. This is aparent in the framing of the exterior scene by the interior window frame.
It suggests purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter. Think of it as art for the mental worker.
Matisse said of his art of this period:
“ I had the sensation of colouring an object. This enabled me to set down the first colour on the canvas. I would then add a second colour, and then, instead of painting it out when the second colour did not seem to go well with the first, I would add a third one intending to harmonise them.”
“ The Green Line”
Her oval face is bisected with a slash of green and her coiffure, purpled and top-knotted, juts against a frame of three jostling colours. Her right side repeats the vividness of the intrusive green; on her left, the mauve and orange echo the colours of her dress. A creative experiment in harmony.
Public were not prepared for this portrait. An insult to the traditionally emphasised take on women as objects of beauty.
The green stripe down the center of the face acts as an artificial shadow line and divides the face chromatically, with a cool and warm side.
The traditional techniques of employing light and shadow to produce depth are here replaced by flat areas of contrasting colours.
Henri Matisse, The Gypsy, 1906
Like ‘ The Green Stripe’ but perhaps more so, the paint gives the illusion of having been squeezed directly from the tube and spread by brush, palette knife and fingers.
In both pieces, a physical involvement with the paint that is comparable to a sculptors involvement with his clay.
La Joie de vivre (The Joy of Life) 1905-06, Oil on canvas, 175 x 24cm.
La Joie de Vivre
Stronger colours (green, orange, violet, blue, pink and yellow) occupy spaces that the trees, figures and landscapes naturally dictate.
As much a refutation of pointillism as Luxe, Calme and Voluptuous had been a confirmation, we see a different influence coming in from Japonisme and Gauguin’s Tahitian work.
Guided much more by instinct and feeling than the more dogmatic approach to colour theory used in pointillism.
Figures themselves are at once both symbolic and ornamental.
Represent a golden age in which man and nature are one.
Matisse draws on the lines of the human body so as to harmonise the visual values of unmixed colours to which nothing has been added but white. This was done to harmonize and to simplify the artwork itself.
Matisse, Harmony in Red/La desserte, 1908, Oil on canvas, 180 x 220 cm.
Harmony in Red/La desserte rouge
The art work has a lyrical, rythymic feel
The patterning and black outlining draw influences from Japanese prints, primitive art, and a contemporary art movement Art Nouveau.
Saturated colours are used in the work. Red is very intense, but is balanced by the complementary green of the window and is broken up by the vast amount of patterning.
The intensity of the red and the patterning are the same both on the wallpaper and the tablecloth: this has the effect of flattening the space and perspective. The woman becomes flattened; she blends in with the patterning --> the application of saturated colour deny any sense of pictorial depth.
The canvas began its life as Harmony in Green, and was then transformed to Harmony in Blue.
It then was bought by Sergei Shchukin, who honoured Matisse's request to work on it one last time, with this Masterpiece as the final result.
Green –too little contrast. Blue –not abstract enough. The red dispelled any suggestion of naturalism.
Matisse, Dinner Table, 1897, Oil on canvas, 100 x 131cm. Harmony in Red, 1908
Art Nouveau Aubrey Beardsley The Peacock Skirt , 1892. Alfons Mucha Poster of Maude Adams as Joan of Arc, 1909 Tiffany Studios Dragonfly table lamp circa 1902
Art Nouveau Movement
Art Nouveau was a French movement meaning ‘New Art’. It is characterized by its highly decorative, organic style and by the dedication to natural forms.
It was popular from about 1880 to 1910 and was an International art movement.
Art Nouveau was not restricted to painting or printmaking. It covered all forms of art - architecture, furniture, jewellery, glass and illustration.
With the philosophical roots in high quality handicraft, Art Nouveau was nothing for mass production.
What is innovative about Matisse’s use of colour and form in this painting?
Matisse has rejected the post-impressionists’ use of subtle colour shades.
He shows a desire to liberate colour from descriptive function. It becomes bold, vivid, and non-naturalistic and is instead used to provoke an emotional response.
Colour rather than subject becomes the most important part of the painting.
Matisse’s lyrical, rhythmic use of line is particularly obvious in paintings such as Haromony in Read .
His works become very flat and two-dimentionally simple, which in itself become a rejection of the complex world that he lives in.
Matisse, Dance (II), 1910, Oil on canvas, 260 x 391 cm
The overall effect of the image is calming because of the simplification of forms.
With the overall action of the painting bodies fill the design. Feet are pressed against the bottom of the canvas, and the upper edge is carried on a bent head and powerful shoulders, suggesting the expansion of individual body energy.
Each body form seems to incorporate instantaneous impressions of vigorous movement (for example, the skipping backwards step).
Indications of movement seem to contradict each other, although the overall effect seems to be of clockwise movement.
The treatment of the figures are reminiscient of early Greek and Roman vases, espcially with the use of the red-ochre of the dancers. Yet Matisse is said to have modelled the figures after being stimulated by seeing country dancers in Collioure and Paris.
Dance (II) con’t…
A frenzied picture, the dancers seem to be caught up in the pounding force of some primeval, savage work, bodies distorted, limbs leaping madly.
Matisse's editing is extraordinarily powerful; in allotting each of the elements, earth, sky, and body, its own local colour and nothing more, he gives the scene a riveting presence.
Within that simplicity, boundless energy is discovered. The Dance is one of the few wholly convincing images of physical ecstasy made in the twentieth century.
The art work has created the essence of Rhythm on the canvas.
This painting was quite a lot different from the first version that he executed.
Matisse, La Danse (first version) , 1909, Oil on Canvas, 259 x 390cm.
That Dance (I) and (II) Both versions nearly identical in composition, the simplifications of the human body attacked as inept or wilfully crude. Also noted was the work's radical visual flatness: the elimination of perspective and foreshortening that makes nearer and farther figures the same size, and the sky a plane of blue.
Here, the figure at the left moves purposefully; the strength of her body is emphasized by the sweeping unbroken contour from her rear foot up to her breast. The other dancers seem so light they nearly float. The woman at the far right is barely sketched in, her foot dissolving in runny paint as she reels backward. The arm of the dancer to her left literally stretches as it reaches toward the leader's hand, where momentum has broken the circle. The dancers' speed is barely contained by the edges of the canvas.