Fauvism and Expressionism
Fauvism andExpressionism CHAPTER 1
Fauvism and Expressionism
Fauvism andExpressionism CHAPTER 1
Fauvism was the first avant-garde movement in the 20th century.

Its use of simplified shapes and bright colours unrelated to reality was a search for expressing emotions rather than representing the world exactly as it is.

André Derain, Virage, L’Estaque
1906, oil on canvas, 4’3” x 6’4.5”, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston © ADAGP, Paris 2021. Photo: www.mfah.org
In a nutshell

Fauvism expresses emotions using bright colours and simplified shapes.

Avant-garde ?
In fact, what does “avant-garde” mean?

This word comes from military language. The avant-garde are soldiers who go out before the rest of the army. If there are any enemies along the way, they are the first to be attacked. Only the bravest soldiers are put in this position!

Alfred Barr, Cubism and Abstract Art,
1936, colour lithograph, private collection. Photo: © Christie’s Images / Bridgeman Images

The term avant-garde, applied to art, describes artists who are ahead of others, who take risks by trying out new things.


At the beginning of the 20th century, many of them tried to blow tradition apart by reinventing art.

In a nutshell

In art history, the term avant-garde describes artists who overturn traditions and introduce radical innovations.

Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse, CC0
  • Dates : 1869 – 1954
  • He worked as a solicitor’s clerk, then began to paint at 20 years old whilst recovering from appendicitis.
  • His initial influences were Cezanne and Gauguin.
  • In 1905, with a few other painters, he exhibited brightly coloured canvases. Art critics were shocked and ridiculed these “wild beasts.”
  • He found his alter ego in Picasso, starting an artistic dialogue with him which would never end.
  • At the end of his life, he was disabled and could no longer paint, so he “drew in colour” by cutting shapes out of coloured paper.
Henri Matisse, Luxury, Calm and Pleasure,
1904, oil on canvas, 3’2” x 3’9”, Orsay Museum, Paris © Succession H. Matisse. Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais (Orsay Museum) / Hervé Lewandowski
Henri Matisse, Blue Nude III,
1952, gouache on paper, 44 x 29 inches, Pompidou Centre-National Museum of Modern Art, Paris © Succession H. Matisse. Photo: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI
Luxury, Serenity and Pleasure

Before the wild beasts’ cage affair, Matisse and Derain took a great interest in Divisionists, artists who painted using little spots of colour alongside each other.


Some people mockingly called them the “Pointillists” because these little spots of colour looked like tiny dots (points in French).


Matisse spent the summer of 1904 with Signac, who was one of the Divisionists,  and went on to paint Luxe, calme et volupté (Luxury, Serenity and Pleasure) using this technique. But from the next year onwards, his use of little dots was over. They gave way to large splashes of solid colour.

Georges Seurat, Sunday on la Grande Jatte,
1884-1886, oil on canvas, 82 × 121 inches, Art Institute of Chicago. Photo: © Art Institute of Chicago, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image The Art Institute of Chicago
Paul Signac, Port of Saint-Tropez,
1899, oil on canvas, 25.75 x 32 inches, Annonciade Museum, Saint-Tropez
In a nutshell

Divisionists like Signac paint using little spots of colour alongside each other.

What is “Expressionism”?

In fact, Fauvism belongs to a wider artistic family known as Expressionism. Okay, but what does that mean?


Unlike the Impressionists (Monet, for example), who painted everything they saw during their daily life with a certain lightness of touch,  Expressionists portrayed strong, violent personal feelings, with distorted shapes, in order to communicate a strong emotion to the viewer.

Edvard Munch, The Scream
1893, tempera and pencil on wood, 35.8 x 29 inches, National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo. Photo: Multiple Authors CC0 1.0

This Expressionist revolution can be found in different parts of Europe:


Emil Nolde, Dance around the Golden Calf,
1910, oil on canvas, 34.6 x 41,5 inches, Neue Pinakothek, Munich. Photo: © De Agostini Picture Library / Bridgeman Images Germany


Franz Marc, Large Blue Horses,
1911, oil on canvas, 41.6 x 71.3 inches, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Photo: ©2020 Walker Art Center


Gustav Klimt, The Kiss,
1907-1908, oil, gold, silver, platinum, lead on canvas, 5’11” x 5’11”, Belvedere Gallery, Vienna Austria


In a nutshell

Expressionist artists shared their every mood, sometimes violently.

New Objectivity

Expressionism did not end at the beginning of the 20th century, far from it. After the First World War, German artists who had fought in the trenches wanted to portray the appalling violence of the fighting.


This was why they used an Expressionist style to demonstrate their revulsion for the society responsible for this massacre. They were not part of a school as such. These artists simply picked up their brushes to express what they were experiencing during the same period.


It was in fact only in 1925 that a German exhibition entitled New Objectivity gave a name to this group of artists.

Max Beckmann, The Night,
1918-1919, oil on canvas. 4’4” x 5’, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. Photo: © Bridgeman Images
Otto Dix, Brussels Hall of Mirrors,
1920, oil and glazing on a silver background on canvas, 48.8 x 31.5 inches, Pompidou Centre – National Museum of Modern Art, Paris © ADAGP, Paris 2021. Photo: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Georges Meguerditchian
George Grosz, The Pillars of Society,
1926, oil on canvas, 6’7” x 3’6.5”, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Photo: © Bridgeman Images
In a nutshell

After the Great War, German artists denounced the evils of their era, giving birth to the “New Objectivity”.

In summary, you have discovered:

  • Fauvism
  • Avant-garde ?
  • Henri Matisse
  • Luxury, Serenity and Pleasure
  • Expressionism
  • New Objectivity
To train

The artist-painters who caused a scandal at the 1905 Autumn Salon were nicknamed …

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“Expressionist” artists liked to depict …

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I was influenced by Gauguin and painted with the fauves for a time. I continued my creative work by cutting out coloured paper. Who am I ?

You have to choose an answer