Matisse, Derain and Friends

Kunstmuseum Basel
Until January 21

At the outset of the 20th century, a loosely affiliated group of artists centering around Henri Matisse, André Derain, and Maurice de Vlaminck conducted revolutionary experiments in color. The name Fauves was bestowed on the group in 1905 by art critic Louis Vauxcelles. He first employed “fauves” in one of his articles; the term, which in English translates as “wild beasts” or “wild animals,” was intended to characterize the clique of artists who remained little known prior to 1905. It was in the group’s expressive approach to the application of color, its striking, often virulent color schemes, as well the rejection of naturalistic renderings of local colors, that Vauxcelles discerned the break with academic precedent.

Fauvism was to emerge as the 20th century’s premier avant-garde movement. For a brief period, from 1904–1908, it set the pace in the Paris art scene, but its impact endured long into the future. Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy, and Kees van Dongen, among others, later joined the movement. Fauvism coincided with the Belle Époque, an era that heralded the rapid rise of urban mass society with its fast-emerging mobility and the nascent advertising and tourism industries.

This comprehensive special exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel shows the Fauves’ outstanding experimentation with color. Conventional perceptions as to the style of this movement, which left such an indelible stamp on modernism, are also called into question. The exhibition also features works by the artists Émilie Charmy and Marie Laurencin, and thus for the first time provides insights into the trade in Fauvist art, a trade in which gallerist Berthe Weill played a decisive role.