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The Fauves. Passion For Color

The Fauves. Passion For Color

By In Highlights, The exhibit On 12 March, 2015


Fundación MAPFRE presents The Fauves. Passion for Color, the most important exhibition on Fauvism organized to date in Spain. The display may be visited from October 22, 2016 through January 29, 2017 at the Recoletos Halls in Madrid. 

The Fauves were a group of young artists who revolutionized the art world of the early 20th century with their strident colors and energetic brushstrokes. Formed around Henri Matisse, they were called “wild beasts” (fauves, in French) when they presented their works at the 1905 Salon d’Automne, causing a great stir among the public and critics alike. Over the next two years, they totally renovated the art of that time, placing color at the center of the artistic debate. Barely two years later, the group’s members set off on independent paths, laying the foundations for such movements as Expressionism and Cubism.

This exhibition proposes a tour of Fauvism from its very inception up to its disappearance. To do so, over one hundred paintings have been brought together, as well as numerous drawings and a selection of ceramic pieces. This collection includes works by all the artists who formed part of the group: Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Albert Marquet, Henri Manguin, Charles Camoin, Jean Puy, Raoul Dufy, Othon Friesz, Georges Braque, Georges Rouault and Kees van Dongen.

The Fauves. Passion for Color has been produced by Fundación MAPFRE and curated by Mª Teresa Ocaña. The exhibit has proved possible thanks to the support of over eighty lenders. Among these are such major institutions as the TATE, the Pompidou Center, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Kunstsammlung NordrheinWestfalen of Düsseldorf, the Milwaukee Art Museum or the National Gallery of Denmark, which have lent some of their most emblematic works. Another essential factor has been the generosity of more than thirty private collectors, who agreed to lend works which are unknown to the general public, yet of extraordinary quality.

Despite the importance of Fauvism in the birth of modern art, this is a movement that has always had very little impact in Spain. This exhibition therefore offers a unique opportunity to fully appreciate this brief, yet brilliant, movement.

They were called “wild beasts” (fauves, in French)

when they presented their works at the 1905 Salon d’Automne.

 FAUVISM PRIOR TO FAUVISM

The first Fauves met in the 1890s in Gustave Moreau’s studio at the School of Fine Arts in Paris. Moreau was a broad-minded teacher, a true free spirit who, simultaneously, inculcated in his students an admiration for the Louvre’s maestros, while advising them to deviate from their criteria. Those frequenting his studio included Henri Matisse, Georges Rouault, Albert Marquet, Henri Manguin and Charles Camoin. The group was soon joined by Jean Puy, André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck.

Matisse and his colleagues frequently painted together, interpreting the same motif driven by a strong spirit of complicity and emulation. The camaraderie in that shared studio was so important to them that they reflected this atmosphere in their nude studies. Very soon they started experimenting with pure colors and incorporating the artistic innovations of their time into their painting, from Impressionism up to the painting of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne.

This eclecticism is manifested in the still lifes, the indoor scenes and the nude portraits they produced during these formative years.

 
Henri Matisse, Académie d’homme, 1902. Musée Cantini, Marsella. © Succession H. Matisse/ VEGAP/ 2016. © Claude Almodovar and Michel Vialle

THE FAUVES PORTRAY EACH OTHER

Fauvism was not a single, homogeneous movement, but rather a fleeting encounter of several young artists united by strong bonds of friendship and by the same artistic concerns. Thus, the interaction of the personalities and the camaraderie among the Fauves decisively influenced the movement’s development. It is therefore no surprise that the artists themselves were the protagonists of many of the works they produced, most noteworthy being the reciprocal portraits painted by Matisse and Derain in the summer of 1905.

These portraits not only reflect the bonds of friendship forged between them, but also constitute a complex, iconographic selfdefinition. The Fauves also did self-portraits and stamped the mark of their personality and most peculiar characteristics on their works. On highlighting their stylistic individuality in them, they were also defining their autonomy, one of the group’s core values.

André Derain, Henri Matisse, 1905. Tate: Purchased in 1958. ©André Derain, VEGAP, Madrid, 2016. © Tate, London 2016
Henri Matisse, André Derain, 1905 . Tate: Purchased in 1954 with the collaboration of the Knapping Fund, the Art Fund and the Contemporary Art Society, as well as private sponsors © Succession H. Matisse/ VEGAP/ 2016 © Tate, London 2016
André Derain, Portrait du peintre Étienne Terrus, 1905. Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, Donation  Howard D. and  Babette L. Sirak, the Donors to the Campaign for Enduring Excellence y the Derby Fund. © André Derain, VEGAP, Madrid, 2016

The Fauves totally renovated the art of that time,

placing color at the center of the artistic debate

ACROBATS OF LIGHT

The Fauves spent the summer of 1905 on the Mediterranean coast and its golden, shadowless luminosity led them to produce authentic “acrobatic exercises on the subject of light”, as Derain described it in a letter to Vlaminck.

Matisse and Derain met up in Collioure. During the almost two months they spent together in this small fishing village, both artists overcame the rigid Pointillist style of Signac, which had marked their work throughout the previous year, in favor of greater pictorial freedom. They thus moved away from works characterized by small brushstrokes of complementary colors, such as Figure à l’ombrelle by Matisse or Bateaux à Collioure by Derain.

They progressively abandoned this style for a technique that combined these small “tiles” with uneven brushstrokes and areas of flat color, as seen in Le Phare de Collioure and Le Faubourg de Collioure. Meanwhile, Camoin, Manguin and Marquet traveled around the Côte d’Azur, painting colorful landscapes at Saint-Tropez, Cassis and Marseille.

The southern light inspired these artists to raise the tone of their palette and create brilliant paintings with vibrant colors. It was the works produced during that summer, already decidedly fauves, that caused a sensation at the 1905 Salon d’Automne.

André Derain, Bateaux à Collioure, 1905. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. Purchased in 1965 thanks to a donation from Westdeutsche Rundfunk. ©André Derain, VEGAP, Madrid, 2016 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

THE WILDNESS OF COLOR

The scandal caused by the works of the Fauves at the 1905 Salon d’Automne soon turned into tremendous success, which consolidated their identity as a group and encouraged them to continue their pictorial investigations. In general, their economic situation – until then, very complicated – improved dramatically. Vlaminck left music to devote himself exclusively to painting, while Matisse was able to support himself thanks to the sporadic purchases of a small, but select, circle of collectors, most notably Gertrude and Leo Stein.

Derain was commissioned by the art dealer Ambroise Vollard to travel to London and take advantage of the success Monet had reaped two years earlier with his series on this city. Derain radically renovated the image of the British capital through the use of vibrant, arbitrary colors and an enormous variety of styles. This gave rise to paintings really close to Neo-Impressionist techniques, such as Big Ben, London, and others featuring flat spots of color and more cartoonish strokes, such as Les Quais de la Tamise. Marquet, in Paris, also produced an important series of urban views, with more subdued colors than Derain, but with an amazing ability to put across the vitality and excitement of the city. As for Vlaminck, he continued painting in the vicinity of Chatou. With the constant desire to capture the agitation of the landscape, the artist used increasingly Expressionist brushstrokes, accompanied by an overwhelmingly anarchic, ardent form of execution.

André Derain, Big Ben, London, 1906. Troyes, Musée d’Art Moderne (national collections). Pierre and Denise Lévy. Donated by Pierre & Denise Lévy, 1976 ©André Derain, VEGAP, Madrid, 2016 © Laurent Lecat

THE FAUVES OF LE HAVRE

The success of the Salon d’Automne drew three other young artists from the city of Le Havre to the Fauve group: Raoul Dufy, Othon Friesz and George Braque. Their arrival provided the movement with renewed impetus at a time when Matisse was in full pictorial crisis and his colleagues at the Moreau atelier were beginning to tone down the intensity of their palettes.

The Le Havre painters adopted the habit of painting in pairs, as had previously been the practice of the earliest Fauves: Dufy traveled with Marquet along the Normandy coast, sharing motifs such as the beach and the jetty at Sainte-Adresse, or the popular July 14 festivities. The contact with Dufy made Marquet temporarily enhance his palette, whereas Dufy tended toward a more synthetic painting style, gradually abandoning the vibration of his brushstrokes in favor of broad areas of flat, arbitrary colors. For their part, Braque and Friesz moved to L’Estaque and La Ciotat, small fishing villages near Marseille, where Derain was also to be found.

Once again, the Mediterranean was responsible for inspiring an atmosphere rich in gradations of light, a suggestive patchwork of colors and extraordinary twisty forms, such as those of works such as La Calanque du Mugel à La Ciotat, by Friesz, or Paysage à L’Estaque by Braque.

Charles Camoin, Port de Marseille, Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, 1904. Private collection. © Charles Camoin, VEGAP, Madrid, 2016
Raoul Dufy,  Jeanne dans les fleurs, 1907. Musée d’Art moderne André Malraux, Le Havre. ©Raoul Dufy, VEGAP, Madrid, 2016. © MuMa Le Havre / David Fogel

THE FAUVE DRAWINGS

This exhibition includes graphic artwork by all the artists who formed part of the Fauve group. For them, drawing was not a stage in the pictorial development process, but rather an independent activity with intrinsic value. Its rapid, elliptical nature perfectly suited their constant search for artistic simplification, as it allowed them to stick to what was truly essential. The complexity of techniques, materials and types of strokes evidence the experimental nature of their graphic work. Even more so than in their paintings, the Fauves asserted their distinct individualities through drawing. Marquet, for example, excelled in the art of the silhouette, the result of a single stroke. Derain and Dufy stood out for their large gouaches and watercolors, striking examples of the synthesis between drawing and color. As for Rouault, he used his drawings to develop the dark, grotesque figures of his paintings.

CERAMICS AMONG THE FAUVES

The exhibit also includes a small section devoted to the ceramic pieces made by the Fauves between the years 1906 and 1907 on the initiative of Ambroise Vollard, who put them in touch with the ceramist André Metthey. I

In these works the Fauves, in a specifically decorative fashion, developed the topics that dominated their painting in that period: the synthetic nude compositions that tie in with the Arcadian paintings of Matisse; the monumental, geometrizing figures of Derain’s paintings of bathers; the amalgam of disparate elements, lines and colors of Vlaminck; Puy’s delicate female portraits and Rouault’s caricaturestyle female nudes with muted tones.

More than a hundred of these pieces were exhibited at the 1907 Salon d’Automne. Despite the fact that the initiative did not achieve the expected commercial success, it boosted a revival of ceramics as an artistic medium and paved the way for a dialog between ceramists and painters that was to become extremely popular throughout the 20th century. 

FORK IN THE ROAD

The exaltation and innovation that gave rise to Fauvism ran contrary to its durability. Between 1907 and 1908 the Fauve artists started rejecting “that part of Fauvism they deemed excessive, each according to their own personality, in order to discover their own path,” Matisse would recall. Although the chief interest of the Fauves was centered on the landscape, many of them were also attracted by the nightlife, a topic which was typical of the avant-garde. These scenes, produced by artists such as Van Dongen, Vlaminck and Rouault in a tremendously raw, vivacious manner, presents a bleak, sordid vision of the female figure, clearly a forerunner of Expressionism.

The rediscovery of Cézanne’s works after his death, at the end of 1906, led to a rapid abandonment of interest in color in favor of drawing and form gaining greater prominence. This renewed view of Cézanne’s work resulted in a significant production of paintings depicting bathers with considerably more marked volumes, figures of monumental proportions and increasingly muted tones from the palettes. This influence also materialized itself in the form of landscapes characterized by a progressive geometrization of shapes, heirs to Cézanne’s vision of the order and structure of nature.

This step is particularly noticeable in the works of Dufy, who, from the slightly geometrized volumes of Le Port de Marseille, moved on to a fully Cubist style in his landscapes of L’Estaque in 1908. Braque underwent a similar progression, as evidenced by his Paysage de Provence, l’Estaque, whose geometric shapes and muted colors are surprising, when compared to the colorful, sinuous works he had produced just a few months earlier. In this way, the last section of the exhibition demonstrates how the Cezannist form of Fauvism coincided with the birth of the Cubist aesthetic.

Georges Braque, Paysage de Provence, l’Estaque, 1907. Private collection, Germany © Georges Braque, VEGAP, Madrid, 2016
VALORACIÓN

COLOR AS THE IMAGINATION AND EXPRESSION OF INNER FEELINGS

María Teresa Ocaña*

CURATOR OF THE EXHIBITION THE FAUVES. PASSION FOR COLOR

The Fauves. Passion for Color is presented within the series of exhibitions Fundación MAPFRE is presenting which focus on the artistic movements that developed between the last quarter of the 19th century and the early 20th century, and marked the genesis of the historical avantgarde movements.

The aim of this exhibition is to present the first movement that propelled the advent of 20th-century avant-garde art, focused on a group of artists, the Fauvists. Over a brief, yet intense, period of time they defied the norms established by the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in an attempt to transgress the field of color and thus achieve its full expressive intensity. The daring, innovative gauntlet thrown down by these young French painters had an enormous impact on the public and critics who attended the 1905 Salon d’Automne.

Specifically, it was the critic Louis Vauxcelles who, reporting on that year’s Salon d’Automne, highlighted the contrast between two marble busts by Albert Marquet and the orgy of colors with pure, lush tones of the paintings on show with the expression “Donatello chez les fauves”, thus coining the group’s name. Fauvism developed in a dazzling fashion between 1905 and 1907. The fleeting nature of its emergence highlights the fact that it was not formed as a school, nor did it have a system. Rather, it was a momentary agreement between a few young artists, starting from the premise that color is imagination and an expression of inner feelings, a factor that accentuated the individualisms of the group’s members.

There have been various monographic exhibitions In Spain of certain group members, particularly those of its principal exponents – Matisse, Derain, Dufy and Vlaminck – but this is the first time that one has been devoted to the movement as a whole. The exhibition not only focuses on the emergence of Fauvism in France between 1905 and 1907, but also on the origins of the formation of this movement, prior to 1900, which can be traced to the training they received in the atelier of Gustave Moreau. This teacher was to mark a turning point in the viewpoint of his disciples; in the words of Rouault, he did not attempt to train students in his own image, but rather urged them to reveal their concerns and possibilities through their works. The discourse of the exhibition ends with an epilogue which outlines the disintegration of the group and the subsequent progress of its members. From 1907 onward, they were all to take different paths, in keeping with the new guidelines laid down by the artistic panorama.

* Licenciada en Filosofía y Letras por la Universidad de Barcelona. Directora del Museu Picasso de Barcelona (1983-2006). Directora del Museu d’Art de Catalunya (2006-2011). Especialista en Picasso y sus conexiones con las vanguardias del siglo XX.

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