Famous Fauvism Paintings

12 of the Most Famous Fauvism Paintings

Fauvism was a short-lived but influential art movement that emerged in France at the turn of the 20th century. Fauvism was characterized by bold, expressive brushwork, vivid color, and a focus on emotional content over realistic representation. The movement was inspired by the work of the Post-Impressionists, particularly Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, and sought to break away from the traditional norms of academic art.

The term “Fauvism” was coined by the French art critic Louis Vauxcelles, who used the word “fauve,” meaning “wild beast,” to describe the bold, expressive style of the movement’s artists. The most famous Fauve painters were Henri Matisse, André Derain, Raoul Dufy, and Kees van Dongen. These artists used bright, bold colors and thick, gestural brushstrokes to capture the emotional energy of their subjects, often portraying landscapes, still lifes, and figures in a highly stylized and non-representational manner.

Fauvism was seen as a reaction against the more traditional forms of painting that dominated the academic art world of the time. The Fauves rejected the realistic color palettes and precise brushwork of academic painting in favor of a more expressive and spontaneous style. They sought to create a new form of modern art that would be more relevant to the rapidly changing world of the early 20th century.

The Fauvist movement was also influenced by the vibrant culture of the Belle Époque and the emergence of new technologies and cultural phenomena, such as photography and cinema. The Fauves were inspired by the fast pace of modern life and sought to capture this energy in their art. They embraced the new ideas and techniques of the time, and their paintings often incorporated elements of futurism and cubism.

Despite its brief lifespan, Fauvism had a profound impact on the art world and is considered one of the most important art movements of the 20th century. The bold, bright colors and expressive brushwork of the Fauves inspired many subsequent artists, including the German Expressionists and the American Abstract Expressionists. Fauvism also paved the way for further innovations in modern art, such as Cubism, Futurism, and Surrealism, and helped to lay the foundation for the development of abstract art.

These are the 12 most famous Fauvism paintings from art history.

Charing Cross Bridge, London by André Derain (1906)

Derain was a French artist, painter, and one of the founders of Fauvism, together with Henri Matisse. They worked together through the summer of 1905 in the village of Collioure in southern France. As they used vivid, unnatural colors, it led critics to describe their works as les Fauves, or “the wild beasts” which gave the name to the movement. This painting represents the customary grey sky of London with such dramatic colors that Derain described them himself: “Colors became charges of dynamite”.

Woman with a Hat by Henri Matisse (1905)

Femme au chapeau is one of the key paintings of fauvism. It marked a stylistic change from Matisse’s regulated brushstrokes to a more expressive and unique style. His wife, Amélie, posed for this portrait and is depicted in an elaborate outfit with classic attributes of the French bourgeoisie. Even though her costume is extremely vibrant, when asked about the design and color of her dress in real life, Amélie answered that it was “Black, of course”.

Luxe, Calme et Volupté by Henri Matisse (1904)

This oil painting is a pivotal work in the history of art. It is considered to be the starting point of Fauvism, as it displays a mix of the neo-impressionist style with a new conceptual meaning based on fantasy. The title of this painting translates to Luxury, peace, and pleasure and it comes from Charles Baudelaire’s volume of poetry The Flowers of Evil: “There, all is order and beauty, Luxury, peace, and pleasure”. The painting technique used for this painting is the divisionist, which means that the artist created individual dots of colors placed strategically in order to appear blended when viewed from the distance.

Open Window, Collioure by Henri Matisse (1905)

This small, but vibrant painting is an icon of early modernism. Like other fauvist paintings, it has a startling palette of saturated and unmixed colors and broad brushstrokes. Open Window was painted in Collioure, on the Mediterranean coast during the summer of 1905. Painting of windows was a conventional trope in art since the Renaissance, but Open Window subsequently become a central motif in Matisse’s oeuvre.

Le séchage des voiles (The Drying Sails) by André Derain (1905)

As this painting was painted in Collioure, a small sea town in southern France, which is also known under the name Fishing Boats. Beside big sails and the sea, it depicts locals, hills above the town, and the stone walls of the port, but the primal matter in this painting is light. It is pervading the entire space and seems to produce all objects mentioned, as a color has another role – to convey shadows. Derain applied his color swabs, dots, whole lines, and contour strokes, but also larger spots, while freely inserting green, orange, red, and blue colors between.

La jetée à L’Estaque by André Derain (1906)

L’Estaque is a village in southern France, west of the famous town of Marseille. Derain spent the summer of 1906 in this charming village and worked on this painting that became one of his most accomplished Fauvist landscapes. In a letter to Matisse, he writes about his experience at L’Estaque: ‘The landscape is very pretty here and the light sharper than in Collioure – However there are high chalk mountains covered in pine trees which are wild and superb in their luminosity’. This village was extremely inspiring to Derain, as he painted fifteen canvases over the course of his stay.

Barges on the Seine (Bateaux sur la Seine) by Maurice de Vlaminck (1905–1906)

Maurice de Vlaminck was a French painter considered to be one of the principal figures in the Fauve movement. He was educated to be a musician in his childhood but began painting in his late teens. The turning point of his life was meeting André Derain, with whom he struck up a lifelong friendship. Later, he painted during the day and earned his livelihood by giving violin lessons at night. This painting was done in Nanterre, a town in France northwest of the Parisian center, where Vlaminck’s family was living at the time. His energetic brushstrokes seem to force the waves to rock the small tugboat.

L’Olivier près de l’Estaque (The Olive tree near l’Estaque) by Georges Braque (1906)

Braque was a painter, sculptor, printmaker, draughtsman, and collagist of French descent. Besides his notable contributions to Fauvism from 1905, he played a major role in the development of Cubism. His earliest works were impressionistic, but after seeing the work exhibited by “Fauves”, he adopted their style. Most of his fauvist paintings were landscapes or cityscapes as he preferred capturing local harbors and small towns as well as more open countryside. After painting the ground in golden color and the sky in light green, he used dark lines for the purpose of creating form.

Woman with Large Hat by Kees van Dongen (1906)

Kees van Dongen was a Dutch-French painter and one of the Fauves. The main themes of his work are centered on nightlife as he painted predominantly dancers, singers, and theatre, but he also had a reputation for his sensuous portraits of women. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was assumed that the woman was a prostitute, as she is shown with bare breasts, heavy makeup, and theatrical accessories. Van Dongen, was, like many other artists of the time, obsessed with the ladies of the night, and would often hire their services for modeling.

Self-Portrait in a Striped T-shirt by Henri Matisse (1906)

Matisse only painted four self-portraits. When this one was painted, he was 37 years old and was a year into the fauvism movement with Derain. He depicted himself confident, in confrontational gaze, and wearing the item that describes French artists the best – a striped navy shirt.

Le Bonheur de Vivre by Henri Matisse (1905-1906)

This large-scale oil on canvas painting which is nearly 6 ft in height and 8 ft in width, depicts an Arcadian landscape. It shows a colored forest, meadow, sky, and nude figures in motion. They, women, and men play music, cavort, and dance. The colors are so vibrant that they can not represent the reality of nature itself, but the vibrations of emotional expression, and this painting is regarded as one of the pillars of early modernism.

Notre Dame at the end of the Afternoon by Henri Matisse (1902)

This painting was finished during a time of personal difficulties for Matisse. A great financial scandal ensnared his wife’s family, and he was forced to spend much of his time during this year dealing with lawyers as his studio was searched by detectives and his wife’s family menaced by angry mobs of fraud victims. As all this had consequences to his own family’s financial situation, he switched to painting canvases that were more likely to sell.

What famous Fauvism paintings do you think we should add to this list? Comment below.

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