Fauves Exhibit at the Salon d’Automne Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Young artists exhibiting at the 1905 Salon d’Automne in Paris shocked the art community with their use of bright colors and aggressive painting styles, earning the nickname of “les Fauves” (wild beasts).

Summary of Event

Fauvism as a movement in painting first captured the attention of the Parisian art world in October, 1905. At the annual Salon d’Automne Salon d’Automne[Salon dautomne] held in the Grand Palais, an architectural feature built for the 1900 Universal Exposition, a number of young artists, most notably Charles Camoin, André Derain, Henri-Charles Manguin, Albert Marquet, Maurice de Vlaminck, and Kees van Dongen, had their works placed around those of Henri Matisse. Art movements;Fauvism Fauvism [kw]Fauves Exhibit at the Salon d’Automne (Oct., 1905) [kw]Salon d’Automne, Fauves Exhibit at the (Oct., 1905)[Salon dAutomne, Fauves Exhibit at the (Oct., 1905)] Art movements;Fauvism Fauvism [g]France;Oct., 1905: Fauves Exhibit at the Salon d’Automne[01380] [c]Arts;Oct., 1905: Fauves Exhibit at the Salon d’Automne[01380] Matisse, Henri Manguin, Henri-Charles Marquet, Albert Rouault, Georges Vlaminck, Maurice de Derain, André

With the exception of Vlaminck, none of the artists intended to shock the art world with his entries. Matisse’s painting Woman with the Hat (1905) Woman with the Hat (Matisse) was a regally posed portrait of his wife wearing a large hat, a type of stylish headwear worn by many women who strolled in the Bois de Boulogne. Critics considered the work to be a provocative public insult. Matisse also was accused of demeaning his wife by using her as his model.

Georges Rouault’s submission, Monsieur and Madame Poulot, Monsieur and Madame Poulot (Rouault) was classified by some viewers as a spitefully devised affront. This watercolor and gouache work depicted two stylized figures, a man and a woman, bourgeois characters of satiated smugness. The images that Rouault placed on his canvas were invoked by literary figures in Léon Bloy’s fiction. Rather than praising Rouault for his attempt to give visual life to two of his characters, Bloy was horrified when he saw Monsieur and Madame Poulot. He agreed with critics that the painting was an attempt to vilify French citizens by depicting them graphically as physically ugly and spiritually devoid human beings.

Vlaminck, assigned membership in the group of young painters who were judged to be conspirators in a plot to scandalize the Parisian art world, was motivated by a desire to shock the public. A self-taught artist who was scornful of academy-trained painters and often did not have enough money to buy paints and canvases, Vlaminck presented his work Picnic in the Country (1905) as a personal protest against the weightiness of tradition-bound guidelines for acceptance. The painting radiated with energetic slashes of shimmering vermilion, orange, ultramarine, and cobalt; rather than infusing viewers with dispassionate serenity, the landscape inflamed and unleashed negative passions in those who paused to study it. Its emotional eloquence was lost in critics’ rush to label it as a violently crude piece of work undertaken by a cultural nonconformist.

André Derain, Albert Marquet, and Henri-Charles Manguin were three other artists whose paintings were singled out and vigorously condemned. Derain, later to be recognized as one of the first and most artistically competent of the Fauves, whose canvases radiated with pure color, was accused of producing a tasteless piece of work, his entry Sun Reflected on Water. The beauty created by the harmony he achieved between subject matter and color was not appreciated. Marquet’s sensitively haunting cityscape, Le Quai des Grands Augustins, was classified as stridently unrealistic. Manguin’s The Fourteenth of July at Saint-Tropez was rejected as artistically primitive and garish. Overlooked was his ability to blend blues with reds, oranges, and greens, as Paul Cézanne was able to do.

The public and art critics found little of artistic value in the paintings that Matisse and his cohorts exhibited at the 1905 Salon d’Automne. Collectively labeled barbaric, the various works were subjected to detailed criticism. What was particularly noticeable in them was brilliance of color, vigorous brushwork, similarity in subject matter, and outlining of objects. In a review of the exhibit in the November 4, 1905, issue of L’Illustration, a Paris newspaper, art critic Louis Vauxcelles Vauxcelles, Louis referred to the painters as les Fauves, or the wild beasts, a name that was adopted to identify the artists and the movement they invoked. Shortly thereafter, Vauxcelles identified Matisse as “Fauve-in-chief” and his cohorts as Donatellos among the Fauves.

The young Fauve painters did not consider themselves to be members of a group. Their association, in fact, was short-lived, unlike that of the Impressionists, and they did not publish a manifesto as did their contemporaries in Germany who were in the process of establishing Die Brücke. Many had met at the École des Beaux-Arts, where director Gustave Moreau, Moreau, Gustave a Symbolist, had attempted to alter the staid and tradition-laden policy of the school and encouraged their artistic innovativeness. He introduced his students to sound techniques, such as draftsmanship, but he also encouraged their individuality and exposed them to the creative talents of contemporary artists.

One of the significant painters they met and listened to was Matisse. Older than the other students, Matisse rejected many of the norms of Mediterranean classicism and experimented with expressionism and the use of color to record reality. He saw in the work of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin artistic elements that could lead to a new direction in painting. What he constructed was an abstraction and synthesis of Gauguin’s bold color usage and van Gogh’s emotional rhythmic linear concepts. Cézanne’s skillful use of color also did not escape his attention. Matisse’s paintings, especially Open Window, Collioure (1905) and Woman with the Hat, served as models from the pre-Fauve to Fauve stages of the movement. Perhaps of all Matisse’s works, it was his canvas Joy of Life (1905-1906), one of the 5,552 paintings exhibited at the 1906 Salon des Indépendants, that established his position as Fauve-in-chief.


The many and confusing forces of the age in which Matisse and the other Fauves lived produced in them similar patterns of thought that led to an amazing commonality of responses. Each, largely independent of the others, sought to express a view of the world through the utilization of intense color and certain types of brushstrokes. Sometimes referred to as the masters of tomorrow, Matisse, Derain, and the other Fauves, who now included Othon Friesz, Raoul Dufy, and Georges Braque, rebelled against the artistic parameters established by the more conservative academic art centers, but they did not attempt to disassociate themselves from the era in which they lived. None of them escaped (or desired to escape) the impact of the components of thought that infused their world with a heady energy and optimism.

Like many of their cohorts in other fields, most notably literature, the Fauves wanted to express the richness of the belle époque, with its emphasis on pleasure, nature, brotherhood, and analysis of traditional ideas and concepts. Cardinal to their thought and thus to their work was their unswerving belief that humankind could grasp reality and the intricacies of its nature. They believed that they could play a role in determining the reality of the next moment in time. Although the initial reactions to their efforts were shock and outrage, they quickly won favor with the public and even critics, who perceived the meaning of Fauvism to be more than glaring colors violently brushed onto canvases. Fauve artists spoke in visual form of the aspirations of modern humankind.

The Fauve artistic expression was shaped by two other forces that had entered the world of European thought and culture by the end of the nineteenth century. The influence of African masks, as well as other objects of art often referred to as primitive works, captured the attention of Vlaminck and, shortly thereafter, Derain and Matisse. The three European painters saw in the African carvings elements that differed greatly from the form and content of traditional European art. Their investigation of African artifacts sparked in them a desire to go beyond the boundaries of European artistic legacies. The subtle and dramatic naturalism constructed in the masks through the distortion of the human body and the creation of color and structural harmonies could not be ignored. African masks, projecting a sense of mass and presence, intrigued them.

The other force that served to fuel the minds and actions of the Fauves stemmed from the discipline of psychology, especially the psychology of perception. Academicians had demonstrated by the end of the nineteenth century that humans are emotionally affected by color and structure, including color contrasts and spacing between colors. Many artists were familiar with studies of the psychology of perception; those who did not read the academic writings acquired the information, in whole or in part, from their colleagues. Such information influenced the work of the expressionists as well as that of many of the Fauves.

The Fauves charged themselves with the artistic task of recording on canvas the immediate emotional response to a setting, an object, or a person. The techniques they employed included use of color contrast, linear elements, and drawn elliptical and color-produced lines. What particularly distinguished the Fauve painters was their rejection of such techniques as chiaroscuro, modeling, and classical perspective. Cardinal to their work and central to their need to express reality was their use of pure color, the central feature of all their efforts. They utilized pure colors in ways very rarely used by prior painters. They brushed pure color onto canvas energetically and boldly to create brilliant broad expanses or what appeared to be color-infused flattened areas. Hot, blazing colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—were accented by cool colors such as greens, violets, and blues. They used purple or red for shadows. Their washes also radiated with the purity of the colors they selected. Their palettes exploded into a harmony of sensations produced by the placement of color pigments.

By 1906, the Fauves, especially Matisse and Derain, undertook a change in style. They returned to a more precise draftsmanship, as illustrated in the use of marked contours, decorative symbols, subjective distortions, and subtle but masterfully and intriguingly executed arabesques. Matisse and Derain also began to experiment once again with color usage. They did not negate the purity of color, but they also made use of shades of gray and ocher.

Just as quickly as Fauvism surfaced in France, it began to wane. By 1907, the Fauves began to display their individuality within the movement. The artists who were instrumental in beginning the movement moved on, but many others, some less talented, attempted to capture Fauvism forever in artistic law. Matisse and his cohorts made no attempt to devise a permanent system of expression, nor did they desire to establish artistic dogmas that would live on. They believed that painting, as a visual representation of reality, is constantly evolving. Painters should distill from a style only those elements that they can use in the search for ways to express a continually changing reality.

Many European artists experimented with Fauvism on their way to other forms of expression, such as cubism. Fauvism thus gained attention and continued as a style. German and Eastern European artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Alexey von Jawlensky, August Macke, Franz Marc, Gabriele Munter, and František Kupka entered the movement. In 1913, duplicating the artistic effort of the French, the Germans created their own exhibition of Fauve and expressionist paintings. What had begun in France in 1905 as an artistic revolt against traditional norms and values led to the establishment of a movement out of which the varied expressions of modern art evolved. Art movements;Fauvism Fauvism

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Arnason, H. H. History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Photography. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2003. Sets the Fauvism movement within the context of late nineteenth and early twentieth century art. Includes numerous plates, some in color, with discussion of individual works.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Diehl, Gaston. The Fauves. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1975. An insightful and stylistic history of Fauvism. Discusses the varied forces that gave rise to Fauvism. Includes short biographical sketches of major Fauve artists as well as color plates of their drawings, watercolors, and prints.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lynton, Norbert. The Story of Modern Art. 1980. Reprint. London: Phaidon Press, 1994. Exceedingly stylistic study by an art historian who describes the many forces that gave rise to Fauvism and its place in the context of the development of modern art. Includes more than three hundred illustrations, many in color.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Muller, Joseph-Emile, and Ramon Tio Bellido. A Century of Modern Painting. New York: Universe Books, 1986. Assesses Fauvism in the context of the art heritage of Europe. Offers a technically clear description of the components of the Fauve style. Illustrated.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Zelanski, Paul, and Mary Pat Fisher. The Art of Seeing. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2004. Presents a concise but insightful account of Fauvism. Includes illustrations and glossary.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Color. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2002. Underscores various intellectual approaches, such as scientific, aesthetic, and psychological, to understanding the uses and effects of color. Includes informative and interesting comments by various artists on use of color. Employs a few of the paintings of the Fauves as illustrations.

Tiffany Leads the Art Nouveau Movement in the United States

Avant-Garde Artists Form Die Brücke

Artists Find Inspiration in African Tribal Art

Salon d’Automne Rejects Braque’s Cubist Works

Apollinaire Defines Cubism

Armory Show

Categories: History