WILD BEASTS: ” Les Fauves”

Before ever knowing what I was looking at, every time I have ever seen a work by Matisse I’ve been drawn to it. Though he painted traditional subjects – portraits, landscapes and still lifes – as opposed to abstractions, his use of “un-naturalistic” vibrant colors and “undisguised brushstrokes” produces something truly unique. Though I personally enjoy some abstraction, the distortion of reality  to express emotion draws me in as it introduces new possibilities to the world I see around me.

Is my skin really tan? Is the sky always blue? Is the grass always green? I come to realize that, first of all, it isn’t.. that what I see is always influenced by the environment and by the spectator. The natural lighting, the time of day, the colors on the walls, the colors of my clothes, the reflectiveness of nearby materials, all affect my perception of color.

One of my photo professors once said, “In 1st grade they took away all your joy”. They taught us to make stick figures represent people. They taught us the colors of the objects around us. They taught us symbols to facilitate identification. The problem is, they also took away our full capacity for seeing. From then on we started to see the world not with the infinite details of existence but through the filters we use to facilitate labeling and definition. To define is to kill all the other possibilities.

FAUVISM reminds me to look beyond the symbols society accepts and to instead attempt to create new meaning and new ways of seeing the vast world that surrounds us.

Nasturtiums with the Painting “Dance”, 1912 Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954), the leader of the Fauves, focused on creating images based not on three dimensional space but rather on color planes. He came to these ideas after exploring the works of Post – Impressionists such as Van Gogh and Cezanne as well as Neo – Impressionists such as Seurat and Signac. Meurice de Vlaminck was another Fauve recognized for his exuberant interpretations while Andre Derain was another major Fauve that practiced a more restrained style.

Other important Fauvists were Kees van Dongen, Charles Camoin, Henri-Charles Manguin, Othon Friesz, Jean Puy, Louis Valtat, and Georges Rouault. These were joined in 1906 by Georges Braque and Raoul Dufy.

Often compared to German Expressionism, Fauvism also uses color to express emotion though it’s German cousin tends to focus less on “formal aspects of pictorial organization”.

Though most of the Fauves painted in this way temporarily as they later transitioned into another style (many moving into Cubism with Picasso and Braque), Matisse remained loyal to this view throughout his lifetime and continued to uphold and develop the values of Fauvism in his work.

Still Life with Vegetables, 1905-6 Henri Matisse
The River Seine at Chatou, 1906 Maurice de Vlaminck
Andre Derain, 1906 by Maurice de Vlaminck
Promenade Among the Olive Trees, 1905-6 Henri Matisse

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