Characteristics of Fauve Art

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Fauve art, or fauvism, was a short-lived art movement that flourished in the early years of the 20th century. Its name derives from the French term "les fauves," which means the wild beasts. The term was coined during the 1905 "Salon d'automne" exhibition in Paris, when critics described the works of Henri Matisse and other fauvists as "primitive, brutal and violent." Despite the movement's short duration, fauvism is an important precursor to Expressionism, according to the Art Story Foundation.


Intense Colors

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The first characteristic a viewer will notice on fauvist works is the intense colors used throughout the painting, which is what scared the audience back in 1905. Fauvists used pure and unblended colors in a way that has nothing to do with how the human eye views an object, person or a landscape. As Sabine Rewald from the Metropolitan Museum of Art puts it, fauvists' colors came "directly from the tube." The already "wild" colors were also intensified with the use of thick daubs and smears.

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Bold Strokes

Another deviation from the predominant movement of the late 19th century, impressionism, was the absence of small and thin brush strokes. Instead, fauve art paintings are dominated by bold, undisguised brushstrokes. Therefore, if one pays attention to a fauvist painting, he can clearly see the strokes painters used to apply color to the painting. As a result, transition between adjacent colors is quite abrupt, as it is evident on Andre Derain's portrait of Henri Matisse from 1905.


Disregard of Three-Dimensionality

Disregard of three-dimensionality does not refer to disregard of perspective, as fauvist painters made use of the technique to depict depth in objects and landscapes. Instead, the issues that weakened the perception of depth on fauvist paintings were the seemingly autonomous bold strokes and the lack of subtle shading. This characteristic derives from the fact that fauvists' priority was not the accurate representation of a surface's appearance.


Emotional Response

As described above, contrary to impressionism, realism was not in the agenda of fauvist artists. Instead, as the Art Story Foundation suggests, fauvists used unnatural color combinations in their works to elicit a variety of emotional responses. Therefore, the use of color did not abide by any laws, but it was more a way for fauvists to depict their own emotions on the canvas. In this respect, Tate suggests that fauve art can also be seen as a form of expressionism.


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