Fauvism is a style of painting based on the use of vivid, non-naturalistic colour. It was the first major avant-garde developments in art after the turn of the 19th century and before the First World War. Its dominant figure was Henri Matisse, other members included André Derain, Maurice Vlaminck, Albert Marquet and Georges Rouault.
The group first exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in 1905 and were heavily criticised in the press. It was at this exhibition that the name ‘Fauve’ was first used by the art critic Louis Vauxcelles. He is quoted as saying when seeing a small 14th century like sculpture displayed amongst their paintings: ‘Donatello au Milieu des fauves’. Donatello amongst the wild beasts – Fauve’ means wild beast. The fauvist painters work looked extravagant and quite shocking, because the artists loved using complementary colours in their paintings. This had the effect of making colours look brighter. Complementary colours are opposite each other on the colour wheel eg. Blue/orange, yellow/purple or red/green. Their use of complementary colour made Fauve paintings look very dramatic and many found their work disgusting.
The Fauves exhibited again at the 1906 Salon des Independents. After this exhibition most of the group began to go off in different directions with only Matisse continuing to explore the beauty of pure colour. Fauvism can be seen as a development and extension of the expressionism of artists such as Van Gogh. It also became the stepping stone for later art movements, and developments towards Cubism and abstraction. Although the movement was short-lived, it was very influential, especially on German Expressionism.