Fauvism: interest in the primitive arts and popular culture

Fauvism: interest in the primitive arts and popular culture

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  • In the plaza, women at the balustrade.

    VAN DONGEN Cornelis, known as Kees (1877 - 1968)

  • Yvette.

    CHABAUD Auguste (1882 - 1955)

To close

Title: In the plaza, women at the balustrade.

Author : VAN DONGEN Cornelis, known as Kees (1877 - 1968)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 81 - Width 100

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Annonciade Museum

Contact copyright: © ADAGP, © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Picture reference: 76-001364 / INVD1962-1-1

In the plaza, women at the balustrade.

© ADAGP, Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

© ADAGP, Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: December 2007

Historical context

The conditions for opening up to other cultures

The interest in the primitive arts, especially African and Oceanic, can be understood in the context of strong colonial expansion that marked the years 1885-1914. In return, England supports France in its conquest of Morocco.
In addition to this direct contact, the beasts also learn from artists who, shortly before them, turned to these sources of inspiration. The Salon d'Automne of 1904 then paid him a posthumous tribute before the more complete retrospective of 1906.
Simultaneously in France and Germany, the fascination for the primitive arts replaced the still active vogue for Japanese prints. This ties in with the interest of a Dufy or a Marquet, a Van Dongen or a Chabaud for the street: posters, flags, cabaret signs ... Thus, openness to other cultures (foreign and popular) is a feature of Fauve modernity.

Image Analysis

Strong expressiveness

Van Dongen left Rotterdam in 1897 for a first stay in Paris, where he settled definitively in 1899. Attentive to Parisian subjects and to the capital's nightlife, to its places of pleasure, he sought, from 1905, a "New formula" applied to "modern subjects". He developed his principle of a human figure, isolated against a background without a pattern, framed at the waist. The ring brings solidity to the shape. Spots of color build shapes and space. Simplified shapes and bright colors make the holiday atmosphere festive and shimmering. Dandy, misanthropic, Van Dongen thus renews the socialite and demi-mondaine effigy. In In the plaza, a new decorative desire appears, as shown by the fabric with oriental inspired patterns.
The work of Chabaud, Yvette, is here in the line of Gypsy by Matisse, produced in 1906. It had hit the headlines by attacking the noble genre of the figure. The "barbarity" with which it was painted sparked controversy. Outrage to good taste, it was a first step towards ugliness. In Chabaud's painting, red and black dominate, which give the composition an aggressive character. This aspect is reinforced by a thick ring and a schematization of the face. Eyes and mouth are thus deformed, enlarged until they overflow the face. The red of the lips and cheeks is reminiscent of the one at the back, which highlights them. The simple and seductive side of the prostitute is thus evoked.


Instinctual art and will to break

In all Fauve artists can be read the eagerness to draw on new sources as well as the desire to leave academic references. The Fauvists indeed put on the same level, cultivated, popular, non-learned art and the primitive arts. This approach, characteristic of the European avant-gardes, defines Fauve modernity. The borrowings made from the primitive arts and popular culture thus sound like a revolt, and correspond to the insurrectionary spirit of the movement.
Artists thus seek an authenticity that conventions seemed to have stifled. They find in these other works a primary, vital energy. The main thing is given in the simplification of the forms. This corresponds to the tawny principle of an instinctive expression, sometimes violent, and which takes as its starting point the perception of nature. Popular subjects are thus sometimes treated by borrowing from the popular forms themselves.

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Jean LEYMARIEFauvismGeneva, Skira, 1987 Renata NEGRI, S. VENTURIVan Dongen and the FauvesParis, CELI, 1990.Louis VAUXCELLESFauvismParis, Olbia editions, 1999 Exhibition catalog Fauvism or the ordeal by fireParis, Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, from October 29, 1999 to February 27, 2000.

To cite this article

Cécile PICHON-BONIN, "Fauvism: interest in the primitive arts and popular culture"

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