Yes, they were wild beasts. But in the best way, I suppose.
Fauvism, like so many other early twentieth century art movements, in retrospect, simply looks like a flash in the pan, existing in notable form for no more than five years. Of course, one of the best known painters of the century was a founder of the movement. So, that doesn’t hurt the chances of this brief moment in time being anthologized endlessly.
Its best known proponent, and longest adherent, Henri Matisse will be recognized along with his brightly colored palettes and dancing figures most easily by even the least engaged art person stalking the planet. The vibrant use of colors, which weren’t tied to any sense of physical reality, but played on the emotive aspects of the man, were in stark contrast even to Impressionism, which still held dear properly defined figures.
In Matisses’ work, as well as that of André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, it seems as if the visible brush strokes serve to wipe away delineation between person and its surroundings in a woozy dance.
When defining the aesthetic, consciously or not, Matisse along with Derain, who’d recently made it out of the service, hold up in the French Riviera and sussed out bright colors, but subject matter that was still tied to earlier art movements. In each man’s best known work, people and landscapes still retain the lion’s share of focus. It wouldn’t be until the following decade that non-organic objects (bka man made stuff) would come front and center.
Along with their working together, Derain was engaged with Guillaume Apollinaire, crafting a series of woodcuts for the writer’s L'enchanteur pourrissant, issued in 1909. The art world finds itself divided up into any number of practices. And while a great many people worked in various disciplines, Derain’s exploring woodcuts removed him a bit from the paintings he’d done just a few years earlier. It doesn’t mean he abandoned the style, but the man wouldn’t work within it as fervently as Matisse.
Even the better known painter would eventually move on to work in other modes, eventually scratching, marring and otherwise altering the canvas on which he worked. Perspective’s changed as did content. Today, it might not be revered in the same fashion that subsequent approaches to painting are, but Fauvism did mark a bold step towards the abstract during earliest moments of the twentieth century.