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date: 19 September 2019


  • Dora Pérez-Tibi


Movement in French painting from c. 1898 to 1906 characterized by a violence of colours, often applied unmixed from commercially produced tubes of paint in broad flat areas, by a spontaneity and even roughness of execution and by a bold sense of surface design. It was the first of a succession of avant-garde movements in 20th-century art and was influential on near-contemporary and later trends such as Expressionism, Orphism and the development of abstract art.

The term derives from the word ‘fauves’, used in a review by the critic Louis Vauxcelles (Gil Blas, 17 Oct 1905) of the room at the 1905 Salon d’Automne where the incongruity of an Italianate bust by Albert Marque, portrait of Jean Baignères (1905; France, priv. col.; see 1976 exh. cat., p. 44), surrounded by exuberantly coloured paintings by Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck and others seemed to him like placing ‘Donatello parmi les fauves’. As with other names of 20th-century movements, the label was thus pejorative in origin, in this case reflecting not only violently hostile critical reaction but also the incomprehension of the general public. Nevertheless, the painters to whom it was applied, not a consciously defined group but a loose association linked in certain cases by friendship, defiantly accepted the term as one appropriate to the violence with which they overturned academic conventions....

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