Fauvism in the 20th Century

I have chosen fauvism as my 20th century art movement in France. The start of the 20th century was identified by the heightened levels of change in culture, economic condition, industrial and societal transformation. Therefore, a platform was provided for new artistic changes which were embraced by many. The major art movements in the 20th century include; fauvism, cubism, primitivism, constructivism, futurism and expressionism (Hamilton, 1972).

Fauvism can be said to have originated from the post impressionism back in the 19th century through inspiration.  Art began changing and shifting from the first class works to distinct forms of expression during the dawn of the 20th century. Fauvism began back in the early 1900s where the artists focused on expressing themselves through high color paintings which surpassed realism (Chilvers, 2017). Some of the artists who majored on fauvism include Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne and Vincent van Gogh. Their art works were characterized by simplicity, grating color combinations and immense brush work. The artists had a common interest as they were students of Gustave Moreau known for artistic and literal works whose expression was through symbols.

The wild beasts group led by Henri Matisse communicated through the use of excess colors in portraying their surroundings and expressing their emotions. The fauvists were inspired by the works of Paul Gaungin who had great belief that color translated emotions over words. Fauvism is a significant contributor to cubism where the artist could communicate through distinct artistic views. It is also a major predecessor for expressionism which focused on portraying and communicating emotions rather than the surrounding physique (Chilvers, 2017).

The major contribution of fauvism to the contemporary art was its thorough going goal of distinguishing use of color from its ability to describe and represent hence it exists as separate and independent. Color can be used to exhibit mood and also create a new form within the art work without observing the nature of the world (Hamilton, 1972). Fauvism also draws attention to balance in the components used in the art work. The works are simplified but also have in depth use of color which draws the attention hence creating good visual impression. Fauvism put into consideration the expression of individuals so as to capture the emotional aspect of viewers of the art work.

An example of an art work by Henri Matisse is the Le Bonheur de Vivre (1905-06) which is translated in English as the Joy of Life which is considered as the most popular of Henri’s work. It was created as a response to the negativities associated with his involvement in the 1905 Salon d’Automne (Hamilton, 1972).  The artwork describes the idea of being happy and is formulated in a pastoral background. In as much as the subject is ancient, the artist brought out the fine details in relation to the culture of people.

Other examples of artworks include Blue Nude by Henri Matisse, Self Portrait and Charing Cross Bridge by Andre Derain (Hamilton, 1972). A political aspect can be drawn from Henri’s work ‘The Joy of Life’. He undertook this art after getting negative feedback earlier on so as to maintain his social status since people would easily forget the past after a new art work. The art work was exceptionally good and was more developed compared to the earlier works which means there was advancement in technology used.


Chilvers, I. (2017). The Oxford dictionary of art and artists. Oxford University Press.

Hamilton, G. H. (1972). 19th and 20th century art: painting, sculpture, architecture. Prentice Hall.

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