The Development of Fauvism

In a sense, Fauvism evolved from pointillism which, in turn, had evolved as a development of impressionism. The open-air paintings of the impressionists emphasized the way strong light broke up the uniform color of surfaces into shimmering bits of reflected color. They abandoned the carefully graduated tonal painting of the past and built their pictures with small brush strokes of pure color.

Pointillism took this further by painting with tiny dots of contrasting hues. Seurat, the greatest exponent of pointillism, held that each dot of paint should be accompanied by a weaker dot of its complement. Van Gogh had used some of the same techniques, but with much broader and bolder strokes.

Matisse dabbled in pointillism for awhile, but, his instinct was to make every stroke of his painting strong. He and his group developed a style of broad, short strokes of bright contrasting colors.

The new style that had been evolving for several years burst upon the public in October 1905 at the Salon d'Automne. To the traditionalists, the new style (embodying Derain's ideal of color for color's sake) seemed dangerous.

The paintings were hung together in the central gallery, surrounding a conventional renaissance-style statue. Tradition has it that art critic Louis Vauxcelles remarked of the situation: "Ah, Donatello au millieu des fauves. (Donatello among the wild beasts)" As the impressionists had before them, the fauves happily clung to the name that had been given to them as an insult.



Marquet
1898
Life Class at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts


Vlaminck
1903
The Pond at Saint-Cucufa


Matisse
1905
Woman with a Parasol