4741 - 20170129 - SPAIN - MADRID - The Fauves: Passion for Colour" at Fundacion MAPFRE - 22.10.2016-29.01.2017


Maurice de Vlaminck, Restaurant de la Machine à Bougival, ca. 1905. Musée d'Orsay, donación de Max y Rosy Kaganovitch, 1973 ©Maurice de Vlaminck, VEGAP, Madrid, 2016 ©RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski.
Fundación MAPFRE is presenting the exhibition The Fauves: Passion for Colour, which will remain on display from 22 October 2016 to 29 January 2017 in the Fundación’s exhibition space on Paseo de Recoletos in Madrid. The exhibition, which offers a complete and rigorous survey of Fauvism, brings together more than one hundred paintings, in addition to numerous drawings, watercolours and a selection of ceramics.

Fauvism was the first major avant-garde art movement of the 20th century. It was a controversial and exuberant one based on the exaltation of pure tones, locating the autonomy of colour at the centre of the artistic debate. Led by Henri Matisse, André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, the Fauves rocked the foundations of art of the day with their innovative treatment of colour, energetic handling and freedom of execution. They championed individual autonomy and the idea of paint as a self-sufficient means of expression.

Trained in the studios of Gustave Moreau and Eugène Carrière, the Fauves grouped together around Henri Matisse in the late 1890s, producing their first works based on pure colours over the following years. A key date for these artists was October 1905 when their works were exhibited in Room VII of the Salon d’Automne. The result was a veritable scandal among visitors and in his review the critic Louis Vauxcelles employed the word fauves (wild beats in French) to describe the artists due to the powerful intensity of their tonalities in contrast to the two marble busts on display in the same room. It is certainly the case that works which now seem to us joyful and decorative appeared wild and violent in 1905 to a public still assimilating the advances of Impressionist painting. Even compared to the Post-impressionists, paintings by the Fauves have a purity and immediacy that continues to surprise us today due to the rich and unexpected results and the absence of the traditional rules applied to painting at that date.

Rather than a single, homogeneous movement, Fauvism was a brief encounter between various independent young artists who were united by ties of close friendship and shared the same pictorial concerns. Their evolution was as brilliant as it was intense: the movement lasted barely two years but its impact was remarkable due to the way that their work took up the legacy of Neo-impressionism and Post-impressionism while also laying the bases for other avant-garde movements such as Expressionism and Cubism. As such, the Fauves were the connecting link between the major artistic trends that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Despite Fauvism’s importance in the history of modern art, the movement has passed almost unnoticed in Spain and this is the first major exhibition in fifteen years to offer a complete and in-depth analysis of it. The exhibition offers a survey of Fauvism from its outset in Gustave Moreau’s studio to the group’s breakup in late 1907. It includes works by all the artists in the group: Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Albert Marquet, Henri Manguin, Charles Camoin, Jean Puy, Raoul Dufy, Othon Friesz, Georges Braque, Georges Rouault and Kees van Dongen, placing particular emphasis on the artistic and personal ties between them.

Presenting an exhibition of this importance has only been possible through the support of more than 80 lenders. Notable among them are leading institutions such as the Tate, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Dusseldorf, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Statens Museum in Denmark, which have lent some of their most iconic works. Also essential has been the generosity of more than 30 private collectors who have agreed to lend works less familiar to the general public but of remarkable quality. The fact that the exhibition brings together key works of this movement and others that have never previously been exhibited in Spain makes this a unique opportunity to appreciate Fauvism.

The exhibition is organised as a chronological survey divided into five principal sections, allowing for a presentation of the intense stylistic evolution of the Fauve artists over barely two years. In addition, two smaller sections are devoted to drawing and ceramics, disciplines that help to reveal the versatility and creativity that characterised these young and audacious artists. In addition, the installation aims to highlight the importance of the personal and artistic ties that existed between the artists involved in the creation and evolution of the movement.

The exhibition opens with a section on the earliest pictorial experiments undertaken during their years of training by the artists who would form the Fauve group. The earliest contacts between them date from the 1980s when Henri Matisse, Georges Rouault, Albert Marquet, Henri Manguin and Charles Camoin coincided in Gustave Moreau’s studio in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Within the rigid prevailing academic system, Moreau was an unusual teacher who encouraged his pupils to express themselves freely through colour and aim for pictorial autonomy. Very soon a group of his pupils, led by Matisse and soon joined by other artists such as Jean Puy, André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, began to experiment with the pure colours and expressive brushstrokes of the modern painting practised by Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne, which was exhibited at this period in Paris’s most advanced galleries. The young artists often painted together, motivated by a powerful spirit of emulation, as can be seen here in the life studies of nude figures which convey the atmosphere of the shared studio. These life studies, together with the still lifes and interiors that make up this section of the exhibition, reveal the eclecticism and audacity of these years of training and new discoveries.

The friendship that united the Fauves was crucial for the movement’s emergence and evolution. It is thus not surprising that the painters of the group frequently depicted each other, creating an extremely interesting gallery of portraits which reflects the ties between the artists and constitutes a declaration of their aesthetic ideas that reinforces the group’s identity. In these canvases each painter projected his stylistic experiments and his personal vision onto the other, as evident, for example, in the pair of portraits painted by Matisse and Derain during the summer they spent together in Collioure. For the Fauves, portraiture was more than a reflection of the artist’s perception of his sitter and rather consisted in constructing the image of his colleague through the combination of styles and personalities of the painter and that sitter. In addition, each Fauve expressed his own personality in his self-portraits, of which there are numerous examples. By emphasising their own approach and stylistic individuality in these works, the artists involved were in turn defining one the group’s principal values, namely that of artistic autonomy.

From 1904 onwards the Fauves spent increasingly lengthy periods on the Côte d’Azur. The atmosphere of the Mediterranean was a revelation for these artists and they used it to study the fall of light on colour and to significantly heighten their colours. In the summer of 1905, a key period for the group, Matisse and Derain moved to the small fishing village of Collioure where they enjoyed a period of astonishingly productive artistic collaboration which resulted in the works that caused the sensation at the Salon d’Automne of 1905. Matisse, who was notably influenced by Signac’s Neo-impressionism when he arrived in Collioure, found Derain’s youthful enthusiasm a stimulus to work with greater pictorial freedom. For his part Derain gained more confidence in his work through the support of Matisse who was ten years his senior and already enjoyed some reputation as an artist. Over the course of that summer the two painters freed themselves from the rigidity of the Pointillist technique in works such as Figure à l’ombrelle by Matisse and Bateaux à Collioure by Derain, creating a varied, daring and spontaneous technique to be seen in works such as Le Faubourg de Collioure.

The same year, Camoin, Manguin and Marquet spent the summer on the Côte d’Azur. Manguin stayed with his family in a villa with a large garden on the outskirts of Saint-Tropez. This privacy allowed him to use his wife Jeanne as a model in both delicate domestic scenes and interesting nude studies in natural settings. On occasions he met up with his colleagues Marquet and Camoin who were visiting different locations in the area such as Cassis, Agay and Marseilles. There they painted landscapes with intense, daring colours but without the freedom of expression evident in Derain and Matisse’s works.

Vlaminck worked by himself in Chatou, painting vertiginous landscapes of saturated colours. He was always considered the wildest of the Fauves and was probably the only one of these painters to whom the term “wild beast” can truly be applied. Joking and irreverent by nature, Vlaminck’s painting is characterised by a use of unconventional colours and a dynamic, impetuous brushstroke. He was without doubt the most powerful and expressive of the group.

The scandal caused by these paintings at the Salon d’Automne in 1905 strengthened the Fauves’ identity and from that date onwards they regularly exhibited in Paris’s modern art galleries and enjoyed the support of dealers such as Vollard. Commissioned by the latter, Derain made three trips to London where he produced some of Fauvism’s most spectacular paintings. In these works Derain offered a new image of the British capital through his use of fierce colours in works that were totally divorced from any naturalistic description and possessed of enormous stylistic variety In Paris, Marquet also produced an important series of urban views in more muted tones but with an astonishing capacity to convey the city’s atmosphere, discarding details and focusing on the essential. Vlaminck, in contrast, continued to paint on the outskirts of Chatou, focusing his attention on the vibration of the landscape and using increasingly expressionist and exuberant colours that led to a simplification of the volumes through an overflowing, anarchic and vibrant technique.

In early 1906 three painters from Le Havre joined the group: Raoul Dufy, Othon Friesz and Georges Braque, who breathed new life into the movement in a dazzling manner, given that the original members from Moreau’s studio had begun to abandon their intense chromatism. They adopted the habit of painting in “teams” as the earlier Fauves had done: Marquet and Dufy travelled along the Normandy coast together, sharing subjects such as the beach and pier at Sainte-Adresse. Braque and Friesz meanwhile spent part of the summer painting together in Antwerp before going on to L’Estaque and La Ciotat, small fishing villages near Marseilles where they spent the winter. Once again the Mediterranean light of these places inspired them to heighten the tone of their palette and create brilliant paintings with exaggerated colours and serpentine forms.

The exhibition concludes with a group of paintings that reveal the different paths taken by the Fauve painters from 1907. While from its outset the movement essentially focused on landscape, many of the artists involved were notably interested in Parisian night-life, a theme that was typical of the avant-garde in general. Vlaminck, Rouault and Van Dongen depicted this world of prostitutes and circus people with enormous immediacy and dynamism using heightened colours and extremely expressive, violent brushstrokes which to some extent connect to the Expressionist painting that was emerging at this period outside France.

Cézanne had died in October 1906 and an important retrospective was organised in his honour at the Salon d’Automne of 1907. Despite the fact that Cézanne’s influence had been markedly present in the Fauves’ style since their earliest years, the rediscovery of his work together with their discovery of primitive sculpture and the impact of Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon provoked a rapid abandonment of colour in favour of line and form. This renewed interest in Cézanne was expressed in an important series of bathers, depicted with extremely monumental figures and increasingly muted palettes. In addition, some of the Fauves such as Braque, Derain and Dufy assimilated Cézanne’s new vision of order and of the structure of nature, giving rise to a geometry of forms close to Cubism. For this reason the last section of the exhibition analyses this step from Cézannesque Fauvism to the onset of Cubism.

This section also includes a group of ceramics that establishes an interesting dialogue with paintings created during the last phase of Fauvism.
 Fundación MAPFRE - The Fauves: Passion for Colour" - 22.10.2016-29.01.2017