(Picture courtesy of Steven Zucker at flickr.com.)
This is my last post from Great Britain, and since I have done two posts on art movements, or schools, I am throwing in the Fauves, since Van Gogh was mentioned in comments. In present times, he is recognized as having been both inspired and mentally disabled, a combination that occurs in genius for good and bad, even sometimes is seen as necessary to genius. His painting inspired the Fauves, including Gauguin, Matisse and Roualt, and gave freedom to artists breaking with staid tradition.
The wild and eccentric painting of a world Van Gogh perceived and tried to put on canvas appeals to us now, but was beyond the acceptable realm of the art world of his time. Fantasy has become visible in art since his time, but the unseen realm Van Gogh put on canvas disturbed his world and was put to the side by collectors as too wild and extreme. Those who appreciated his work presented it to others who saw its appeal and some were caught up by it, following it in their own work.
Gustave Moreau was the movement’s inspirational teacher; a controversial professor at theÉcole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and a Symbolist painter, he taught Matisse, Marquet, Manguin, Rouault and Camoin during the 1890s, and was viewed by critics as the group’s philosophical leader until Matisse was recognized as such in 1904. Moreau’s broad-mindedness, originality and affirmation of the expressive potency of pure color was inspirational for his students. Matisse said of him, “He did not set us on the right roads, but off the roads. He disturbed our complacency.” This source of empathy was taken away with Moreau’s death in 1898, but the artists discovered other catalysts for their development.
In 1896, Matisse, then an unknown art student, visited the artist John Peter Russell on the island of Belle Île off Brittany. Russell was anImpressionist painter; Matisse had never previously seen an Impressionist work directly, and was so shocked at the style that he left after ten days, saying, “I couldn’t stand it any more.” The next year he returned as Russell’s student and abandoned his earth-colored palette for bright Impressionist colors, later stating, “Russell was my teacher, and Russell explained color theory to me.” Russell had been a close friend of Vincent van Gogh and gave Matisse a Van Gogh drawing.
After viewing the boldly colored canvases of Henri Matisse, André Derain, Albert Marquet,Maurice de Vlaminck, Kees van Dongen, Charles Camoin, and Jean Puy at the Salon d’Automneof 1905, the critic Louis Vauxcelles disparaged the painters as “fauves” (wild beasts), thus giving their movement the name by which it became known, Fauvism. The artists shared their first exhibition at the 1905 Salon d’Automne. The group gained their name afterVauxcelles described their show of work with the phrase “Donatello chez les fauves” (“Donatello among the wild beasts”), contrasting their “orgie of tones” with a Renaissance-style sculpture that shared the room with them. Henri Rousseau was not a Fauve, but his large jungle scene The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope was exhibited near Matisse’s work and may have had an influence on the pejorative used. Vauxcelles’ comment was printed on 17 October 1905 in Gil Blas, a daily newspaper, and passed into popular usage. The pictures gained considerable condemnation—”A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public”, wrote the criticCamille Mauclair (1872–1945)—but also some favorable attention. The painting that was singled out for attacks was Matisse’sWoman with a Hat; this work’s purchase by Gertrude and Leo Stein had a very positive effect on Matisse, who was suffering demoralization from the bad reception of his work. Matisse’s Neo-Impressionist landscape, Luxe, Calme et Volupté, had already been exhibited at the Salon des Indépendantsin the spring of 1905.
Van Gogh is a classic now because a very small group admired and insisted on supporting him. We can thank the non-conformists that were few but of immense value and saw him as an artist with a vision of unusual character.
(Picture courtesy of Paul Curto at flickr.com.)
(Picture courtesy of Kaitlin at flickr.com.)
(Picture courtesy of Martin Beek at flickr.com.)