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Fauvism Art History And The Female Figurative Subject

Robert WK Clark

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May 28th, 2019 - 05:28 PM

Fauvism Art History And The Female Figurative Subject

Fauvism art is an art form which has a modern conceptual focus which generally forsakes traditional forms of sculpture and painting. “Fauvism” is derived from the French word “fauve,” which means “wild beasts” and pinpoints movement, such as in individuals or machinery. Here we will primarily discuss the female form as it has been, and is, used in Fauvism art while breaking down the form’s history, popularity, artists, and other important points which will explain this particular art form better. Thereby providing a firmer understanding of it and the heartfelt purposes of those who created Fauvist works of art of the past.

The History of the Fauvism Art Genre
Fauvism 1898-1908 was derived and inspired from tribal art with a primitive flavor, and much of it was developed from Post-impressionist inspiration on the part of Fauvists themselves. The Fauvist movement itself did not last long, but the form played a major role in the onset of Expressionist art forms which developed later. One viewing a Fauvist piece will notice how an artist engages in an erratic, untamed use of color and style to achieve their works, thus explaining the “wild beast” reference. This particular use of color is considered ‘unnatural,’ and colors used are typically quite energetic, bold, and vigorous.

The most notable exhibition of only three held for Fauvism art was held in 1905 at the Salon d’ Automne in Paris, France. This exhibition was considered the greatest one held for the art form, which extended over only ten years. It managed to break significant ground for those artists who expressed themselves through the Modernist movement, sparking an entirely new art genre for all to see. To sum up the Fauvism movement in a nutshell, what the artists saw individually is what they painted or created, whether it be a real fact to the viewers naked eye or not. For example, if in the mind’s eye of the painter, one’s face contained numerous colors, each and every color would make it to the canvas. It was considered one of the truest forms of personal expression, and it paved the way for the incredible modern abstract artists of history, past and present.

Another important point which is tantamount to the history of Fauvism is the fact that Paris, France, played such a vital role, once again, in getting the ball rolling for this form. Because it is freely considered the “art center of the world.” This paved the road for Fauvism to grow and change as needed. All the most important art lovers were exposed, and therefore artists who would otherwise be trapped by traditional painting or sculpting genres could have the public’s okay to explore and express themselves in any manner they wanted. The go-ahead given in Paris was a go-ahead given by the entire world, and so Fauvist-based artist everywhere were able to spread their proverbial wings and put themselves on the line fully for the sake of their true vision.

With time Fauvism gave way to Cubism and Expressionism, but the original form itself had remained the only one true to itself, even in those early years when its blood flowed purely. Fauvism was, and indeed still is, one of the most rigorous forms in existence. It played a direct role on the way artists and viewers looked at, and used, color and tone. It changed the way shapes were used. It offered beautiful portraiture which still looked like the intended individual without compromising the obscurity of the form in any way. It was groundbreaking.

Fauvism proved to relate to the German people in unparalleled ways in the second decade of the 20th century with artists like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. French Exhibitionists were overwhelmed by the form at the “Paris School,” resulting in the Rayonism and the Orphism Movement. Next came the overtaking of Scotland, when a group of four individual painters referred to as the Scottish Colorists began to contribute to the form before World War I. Included in this group were George Leslie Hunter, Samuel Peploe, John Duncan Fergusson, and Francis Campbell Cadell. All of these artists had passed away by 1961, but their individual contributions to the Fauvist form remain invaluable to this very day.

Matisse is considered the primary Fauvist pioneer, having contributed some of the finest works to the form. Matisse worked from the belief that freedom of personal expression was, indeed, art in itself, and thus could not be separated from the artist if the artist was true. He used specific systems and techniques which were coined as “Pointillism.” The artist without these beliefs could never be a true artist at all, and this is truly what Matisse believed. It drove him to perfect his form if that could really be accomplished at all when it comes to Fauvism. Others who worked from a strong belief system which was similar, if not identical, included Henri-Edmond Cross, Georges Seurat, and Paul Signac. These men, indeed, were the driving force behind the Fauvism solidification. While it is said that Matisse did not base his work or the techniques he used directly on the Pointillism theory. He did focus on the use of unusual ‘dot’ techniques which other artists forsook to bring an entirely new level of aesthetic and emotion to each and every work he contributed, and he did so successfully, remaining purely true to himself and his vision. Matisse also paid very close attention to several Post-Impressionists of his day, including Vuillard, Gauguin, and Bonnard. This resulted in the use of more and more strong, vibrant color, at a technique which boldly stepped away from the use of soft hues which was common to the Impressionism of his time. He would take paint straight from the tube, implementing no blending or shading, and he would use these colors to convey his point and vision. The effect is obvious; to this day, the name Matisse is common on the lips of even the non-art lover.

Today the basic aesthetic of Fauvism has changed, but it is not altogether uncommon to see a true work sell for literally millions of dollars. The contributions made by those who perfected the form in the past, as well as those who contribute in the present day, keep Fauvism alive, even by any other moniker. Because of the slow, subtle changes which the form has demonstrated, it can be difficult for the untrained eye to recognize true Fauvist art in any form. Many are tempted to simply stare at the works of Picasso and credit him with the genre, but nothing could be further from the truth. Fauvism came about in its own time, and it has been developed, even evolving, to the point of being unrecognizable to the layman. The fact remains that a true Fauvist work can be pinpointed by anyone with an understanding of its theory and history. To know the form is to recognize it, whether it is appreciated by the individual or not. Most, even those who do not love it, can appreciate its boldness and its ability to stand above and beyond other forms. It can be appreciated for the forms which it spawned, and eventually, it will be appreciated by all for its ability, in and of itself, to be utterly free in its purest form.

Fauvism: The Theory
As stated previously, Fauvism was a pioneering form of Expressionism, meaning that the artists, while painting or creating what they saw, did it by their own personal form of expression. This meant the use of a lot of colors, and the subjects bore mostly an unnatural look. In theory, this lent a hand to the artist is free to paint not only what they saw with their eyes, but what they ‘saw’ with their heart. Artistic freedom of this type was exclusive, breaking barriers for artist of the future to be who they were as artists rather than conforming to what the world’s view of an artist or painter should be. This is what the original heart of Fauvism is, and it is what Fauvism should remain, yesterday, today, and virtually until the end of time.

Not only did Fauvism lend a hand to the freestyle of the artist, but it also enabled the viewer to express themselves as well due to the art being, at times, harsh and loud. For those who were bored with, or could not relate to, traditional realism in art, this form was indeed quite popular. It crossed known boundaries and allowed for the personal expression of the owner of any piece, which was the purpose of Fauvist art, and remains the purpose of Expressionist art forms today. This is at the very core of Fauvism theory, even now, to the true artist.

The Popularity of Fauvism Art
Fauvism, or Pre-Expressionism, became popular in the art world for a variety of reasons. Not only did it open the door to artistic freedom, paving the way for some of the greatest Expressionists in history, it also broadened the minds of art lovers and enthusiasts the world over, allowing them to begin to see art as more than ‘black and white,’ so to speak. But there are other reasons why Fauvism was, and is, adored by those who consider art to be a vastly important part of their world and day to day life. For example, Fauvism is much easier for the art lover to integrate into any décor, as opposed to paintings and sculptures which are real in appearance, which tends to only compliment a specific aesthetic. Not to mention the fact that the boldness of color and technique used by Fauvists compliments individual personalities in ways that Traditionalism is incapable of doing. These facts, in and of themselves, have proven to be powerful catalysts about the popularity of Fauvism art and Expressionism being some of the most love art in the world, past and present.

Female Figurative Fauvism Artists and Their Works, Then and Now
Here we will discuss some known and influential Figurative Fauvist artists of the period, as well as some from more modern times whose works would not exist if not for the freedom of expression provided by the onset of the Fauvism period:

Ilya Mashkov 1881-1944
Born in the Cossack Village near Volgograd. This Russian artist known for his works in Fauvism, Nude 1915, Nude 1920, Two nudes 1908, Two nudes 1918, and Seated Nude 1918.

Albert Marquet 1875-1947
Born in Bordeaux, France, this French painter was a lifelong friend of Henri Matisse. Marquet was known for his Fauvist painting Life Class at the École des Beaux-Arts 1998.

Louis Valtat 1869-1952
Born in Dieppe, France. A French painter and printmaker known for his works in Fauvism, Young Women in the Garden 1898, and Young Girls Playing with a Lion Cub 1905-1906.

Henry Matisse 1869-1954
Born in Le Cateau-Cambresis, France Matisse was a true artist of many talents, working with painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, and even printmaking. He was known for works in Fauvism, Neo-Impressionism, Modernism, and Impressionism. Some of his pieces are The Blue Nude 1907, Woman with a Hat 1905, Standing Model 1900-1901, The Joy of Life 1905-1906, Nude in a Wood 1906.

Andre Derain 1880-1954
Born in Chatou France, this French sculptor and painter focused developments of Fauvism and Cubism, two avant-garde movements, and his Fauvism works include The Dancer 1910, Portrait of Matisse 1905, and Bathers 1907.

Pyotr Konchalovsky 1876-1956
Born in the village of Slavianka Russia, this Russian painter known for his works in Fauvism, Scheherazade 1917, Portrait of daughter 1912, Nude 1916, Girl under the umbrella 1929.

Maurice de Vlaminck 1876-1958
Born on Rue Pierre Lescot in Paris, this Fauvist painter from France gave several beautiful works to the genre, including The Girl at Rat Mort 1905, The Girl from Rat Mort 1905-1906.

Matthew Smith 1879-1959
This British painter is known for his works in Fauvism, Kneeling Nude 1915, Fitzroy Street Nude No. 2 1916, Nude, Fitzroy Street, No. 1 1916, Reclining Nude 1922.

Max Weber 1881-1961
Born in the Polish city of Białystok, then part of the Russian Empire. This Jewish-American painter and one of the first American Cubist painters who, in later life, turned to more figurative known for his works in Fauvism. Burlesque 1909, Three Nudes in a Forest 1910, and Summer.

John Duncan Fergusson 1874-1961
Born in Leith, Edinburgh, this Scottish artist, and sculptor, known for his works in Fauvism, Siesta 1951, and In the Sunlight 1907.

Emilio Grau Sala 1911-1975
Born in Barcelona, Spain this Catalan painter known for his works in Fauvism, Ballerinas 1955, Dancers 1963, La Lecture, and Champs Elysees.

Differences in Fauvism: Then and Now
While the basic message of Fauvism remains the same, the years have seen the form make several changes at the hands of the artists who have made the genre their own. In its humble beginnings, and in years gone by, many Fauvist works were considered extreme in their portrayal of women and other subjects, using bold colors, uncontrolled strokes, and independent thought processes to produce the popular works of art which resulted in the Expressionist trends we see in the art world today. However, it is important to point out that there are several changes in the form which have taken place over time.

The changes above can be obviously seen by even the untrained eye if one is to compare past works of the Fauvism form with the more modern versions created today. While many from the past were commonly abstract and extreme in appearance, many of the works we see today have taken a much more traditional tone. While coloration and tone remain bold in most cases, the form given to the subject, particularly human subjects, remains very consistent with reality. The color alone is what seems to cause these painting or other art types to stand out at “Fauvist” or “Fauvist type” works. Even self-portraiture created by these artists have seemed to lean in this general direction.

Present-day representatives of Fauvism have even taken still lives to this extreme, nearly stepping out of the abstract/Expressionism realm into something which is far more traditional than we might expect. While this has been widely accepted in this modern age, true lovers of Fauvism and other related forms notice the changes as starkly as one might notice the differences between black and white, which may be the clear explanation for the fading of the genre into other like forms.

The Importance of Genuine Fauvism to the World of Art
So, why bother? Why not just accept the ebb of the form as well as the flow? There are several reasons to consider if one is genuinely interested in the answer. Like any genre, Fauvism is as important to all art as oxygen is to all parts of the body; without it a specific part loses feeling, resulting in the severing of this particular form and all of its relatives. Without it, the world of art is restrictive and bland, it is the salt and seasoning of the world of art, as specific clothing is to individual style.

As any true Fauvist would likely relate, this particular form was freeing, not only to the artist but to any open-minded art lover or observer as well. No longer must trees and grass be green; the artist could openly lend new emotion and vision to the same using color, and even shape, variety. We all could look at the world through an entirely new scope and begin to see what could be, or even, what perhaps already was. As it is commonly said, beauty, or art, is in the eye of the beholder. To re-conform to the common is basically to turn our backs on this freedom. True Fauvism art in all of its glory is abstract and different. It generates new ideas which liberate. It is, therefore, necessary, not only to the artist but to the entire world, if we desire to accommodate the true tastes and pleasures of all those who call this world home. The point of living, breathing, and creating art today is to do just that, is it not?

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