1900 - 1910


Surfaces flattened. Forms became simplified almost to the point of abstraction as practitioners focused more on color and the application of paint than realistic representations of everyday subjects. In many ways there is a direct line from the work of Vincent van Gogh to Henri Matisse, one of the leaders of the Fauves. The Fauves are often thought of as French Expressionists because of the similarities between their work and the Germans who came to define Expressionist Art of the early 20th Century.

To understand how the wheel was turning toward modern art, look at how Cezanne’s paintings of Mont Sainte-Victoire changed over time. By the end of his life, the underlying geometric patterns had taken over. But before the emergence of geometric shapes could become a dominant theme, artists first had to complete a transformation in their use of color. The Fauvists completed this trick with a joyfulness that earned them their name derived from a critic’s description of their style as “the work of wild beasts.” This fascination with color was first sparked when Henri Matisse’s Australian friend, John Peter Russell, introduced him to Van Gogh’s work.

It is best to think of Fauvism as a brief side trip art history took on the route from Post-Impressionism to Expressionism and then Cubism.