Blog: ARTY FACTS | Fauvism & Colour

Fauvism & Colour

We perhaps take the diversity of expressive colour palettes we find in art for granted. To paint with colours that do not realistically represent the subject being painted is nothing new in contemporary 21st century art, but it took a lot of determination from artists at the turn of the 20th century to develop a new creative language free from the constraints of the conventional art establishment.

                                                          Charing Cross Bridge, 1906, André Derain

Those modern avant-garde art movements that emerged at the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century paved the way for the diversity of art that we enjoy today. When you contemplate the work of the contemporary artists currently in the gallery, you will find the presence of those different movements. Fauvism significantly progressed how colour could be used in art - we will take a look at the Fauvist artists and examples of our gallery artists' work that reflect that influence.



The fauvists were a group of French artists, most notably André Derain and Henri Matisse, who were painting around the time of 1905 to 1910 and were producing work characterised by bold, unnatural colours and loose, dynamic brushstrokes.

'Colours were dynamite for us' - André Derain

It was a movement that followed impressionism and was influenced by post-impressionism which rejected the traditional 3-dimensional space in favour of a new pictorial language with blocks and patches of flat colour being painted on the canvas. They were interested in the scientific colour theory developed in the late 19th century, particularly the application of complementary colours which are opposite on the colour spectrum. Fauvism also saw the simplification of the forms and subjects being painted resulting in abstracted compositions.


Woman with a Hat, 1905 - Henri Matisse             Paysage de Collioure,1907 - Henri Matisse


The name 'les fauves'  which means the 'the wild beasts' was what the art critic Louis Vauxcelles named the artists André Derain and Henri Matisse when he attended their exhibition at the Salon d'automne in Paris, 1905. They received much ridicule and criticism from both critics and the general public, but this did not deter them from developing their vision.

Fauvism was a radical movement in the visual arts, it was one of the first avant-garde modernist movements and the first that moved towards abstraction. Matisse later continued to develop simplified abstracted forms and decorative pattern and strongly influenced artists Pablo Picasso, George Braques and the cubist movement. This was the beginning of the development of expression and abstraction and informed other movements that soon followed.

Tristesse du Roi (cut-outs series), 1952 - Henri Matisse


Fauvist influences seen in the contemporary work of our gallery artists ...

Alison Johnson
Original Oil Painting

Alison Johnson's paintings show a traditional 3D perspective, however the language of colour is much more abstracted and expressive. Here is an example of the use of complementary colours that the Fauvists favoured - purple and yellow being opposite on the colour wheel. Alison has applied this simplified palette, however unlike the fauvists, she has blended shades of these colours to represent the interplay of light and retain the 3-dimensional perspective of the scene. Please read more about the artist and view the collection here.


Piazzo San Marco, Venice
Bernhard Vogel
Original Watercolour Painting

Bernhard Vogel cites the Fauvist movement as being one of his influences and this is clear to see. Expressive blocks of colour and the use of a variety of mark-making techniques such as splashes and drizzles are applied. The colour palette shows predominant areas of complementary colour such as the blue and orange which are opposite on the colour wheel. Although there is a sense of 3D perspective, there is pictorial abstraction in the form of the simplification of shapes, however the painting remains detailed and energetic. Please read more about the artist and view the collection here.


Katy Jade Dobson
Limited Edition Giclée Print

Katy Jade Dobson is inspired by several of those avant-garde movements including impressionism, fauvism and symbolism. It was the expressive ways of applying the paint and the vivid uses of colour applied to natural subjects that influenced her own style. Once Katy began to use oil colour, she was captivated by the richness of colour that could be achieved and chose to apply the whole colour spectrum to each piece of work. Please read more and view the gallery collection here.


Join us for more 'Arty Facts' next week!


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