Fauvism was the first of the avant-garde movements that flourished in France in the early years of the twentieth century. The Fauve painters were the first to break with Impressionism as well as with older, traditional methods of perception. Their spontaneous, often subjective response to nature was expressed in bold, undisguised brushstrokes and high-keyed, vibrant colors directly from the tube.
Henri Matisse (1869–1954) and André Derain (1880–1954) introduced unnaturalistic color and vivid brushstrokes into their paintings in the summer of 1905, working together in the small fishing port of Collioure on the Mediterranean coast (1975.1.194; 1982.179.29). When their pictures were exhibited later that year at the Salon d’Automne in Paris (Matisse, The Woman with a Hat, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), they inspired the witty critic Louis Vauxcelles to call them fauves (“wild beasts”) in his review for the magazine Gil Blas. This term was later applied to the artists themselves.
The Fauves were a loosely shaped group of artists sharing a similar approach to nature, but they had no definitive program. Their leader was Matisse, who had arrived at the Fauve style after earlier experimenting with the various Post-Impressionist styles of van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cézanne, and the Neo-Impressionism of Seurat, Cross, and Signac. These influences inspired him to reject traditional three-dimensional space and seek instead a new picture space defined by the movement of color planes (1999.363.38; 1999.363.41).
Another major Fauve was Maurice de Vlaminck (1876–1958), who might be called a “natural” Fauve because his use of highly intense color corresponded to his own exuberant nature. Vlaminck took the final step toward embracing the Fauve style (1999.363.84; 1999.363.83) after seeing the second large retrospective exhibition of van Gogh’s work at the Salon des Indépendants in the spring of 1905, and the Fauve paintings produced by Matisse and Derain in Collioure.
As an artist, Derain occupied a place midway between the impetuous Vlaminck and the more controlled Matisse. He had worked with Vlaminck in Chatou, near Paris, intermittently from 1900 on and spent the summer of 1905 with Matisse in Collioure. In 1906–7, he also painted some twenty-nine scenes of London in a more restrained palette (1999.363.18).
Other important Fauves were Kees van Dongen, Charles Camoin, Henri-Charles Manguin, Othon Friesz, Jean Puy, Louis Valtat, and Georges Rouault. These were joined in 1906 by Georges Braque and Raoul Dufy.
For most of these artists, Fauvism was a transitional, learning stage. By 1908, a revived interest in Paul Cézanne’s vision of the order and structure of nature had led many of them to reject the turbulent emotionalism of Fauvism in favor of the logic of Cubism. Braque became the cofounder with Picasso of Cubism. Derain, after a brief flirtation with Cubism, became a widely popular painter in a somewhat neoclassical manner. Matisse alone pursued the course he had pioneered, achieving a sophisticated balance between his own emotions and the world he painted (1984.433.16).
The Fauvist movement has been compared to German Expressionism, both projecting brilliant colors and spontaneous brushwork, and indebted to the same late nineteenth-century sources, especially the work of Vincent van Gogh. The French were more concerned with the formal aspects of pictorial organization, while the German Expressionists were more emotionally involved in their subjects.
Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The works of Andre Derain remain on view at the Grace Borgenicht Gallery, 724 Fifth Avenue, at 57th Street, through Nov. 28. Saul Steinberg Pace Gallery 32 East 57th Street Through Nov. 28
Saul Steinberg is a wonderful cartoonist. The format suits him. Islanded in a sea of print, and very well able to draw in some words of his own, he adapts perfectly to a magazine page. But when he makes exhibition drawings, his sense of scale is not so sure. And when his own inimitable (though often imitated) handwriting is supplemented by images of sexuality that echo his late friend Richard Lindner, the result is a Central and Eastern European hybrid that does not have quite the commitment that Lindner brought to the tragicomedy of human involvement.
His new show also includes a series of minutely fabricated scale models of environments. One is of a very large and apparently unpopulated store in which hundreds of standard pieces of furniture wait for customers. (The tonalities employed are those of an overripe banana, by the way.) Another example, and one particularly touching to the Steinberg enthusiast, is of a private library in which every book, from Stendhal to Louis-Ferdinand Celine and from ''Robinson Crusoe'' to ''Pidgin English'' and a ''History of Manners'' in German, is made just to size and inscribed by Mr. Steinberg himself. In these, his true self shines out. Thirteen Sculptors Lelong Gallery 20 West 57th Street Through Dec. 5
How to get French, German, Italian and American sculptures, dated from 1959 to 1987, to live together? A tricky problem, solved at the Lelong Gallery by keeping them as far apart as possible and choosing work that ranges from a largely two-dimensional wall relief by Yannis Kounellis to floor pieces by Wolfgang Laib and a corner piece, dated 1959, by Robert Smithson that gives us a mirrored closeup of ourselves from ankle to knee.
One of Yves Klein's blue sponges hangs high on another wall. Bruce Nauman's color photograph ''Self-Portrait as a Fountain'' (1966) takes rank here as a sculpture because it shows the artist spouting away like a supernumerary volunteer in the Piazza Navona in Rome. There is a big hanging piece in brown felt by Robert Morris, dated 1980, that proves all over again how variously eloquent that simple device can be.
Mark di Suvero has made a new piece expressly for the show. As always, he plays balance against apparent imbalance, and awkwardness against a seemingly weightless free floating. But for this critic, the pieces that stand out are the two schematic houses - doorless and windowless -that sit on the floor, sealing-waxed to a rich and high gloss. In this matter, there is wax and wax, in case you didn't know. Sealing wax from Bombay has quite another glow from German sealing wax, and Mr. Laib teaches us how to tell one from the other. Robert Cottingham Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer Gallery 724 Fifth Avenue (at 57th Street) Through tomorrow
Initially known for his super-realist paintings of metropolitan exteriors, Robert Cottingham has lately begun to work with texture and atmosphere, as much as with salient and minutely simulated detail. The end result has something of an updated Edward Hopper, but of a Hopper who has given over grieving for a while. The same image is treated over and over, but each of its appearances has a different weight, a different emphasis and almost a different character. It's a good way to be on the move. Donald Sultan Blum Helman Gallery 20 West 57th Street Through Nov. 28
Donald Sultan's new show has antiphonal subject matter. On one hand, there are several of the huge square flower pieces that pack a mathematical punch, quite apart from tackling the flowers on the scale of gigantomania. (''Roses in a Brass Bowl'' is a particularly telling example.) There is also a big painting of pears nuzzling and fondling one another that is one of the more riotous of his erotic inventions. On the other hand, Mr. Sultan enlarges his repertory of industrial disasters, making us run for cover as, one after another, our direst forebodings are made real.
What we have here is, in fact, almost a case of double identity. The flowers and the fruit tower above us until we feel like grounded bees that will never get to explore them. The disasters are big, too, and the paintings of them look as if they themselves had been through the fire. They have a certain topicality, moreover. The image of a ferry on the point of disintegrating may remind us of one of the worst maritime disasters of the last few years.
As for ''Switching Signals,'' an image of deserted railway tracks with elaborate engineering structures overhead, they will have an especially gruesome meaning for anyone who has seen Claude Lanzmann's movie ''Shoah,'' with its recurrent image of the railroad on which the last stop was Auschwitz.
So this is distinctly a show that swings this way and that. The two kinds of image may sound like a gratuitous combination, but in the event they sit together surprisingly well.Continue reading the main story