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BEASTLY AND NAIVE PART 2

THE FAUVISTS RECEIVED their “beastly” moniker in the early 20th century because of their intense colors that more than surpassed nature: Reality was downright ignored. Today in Part 2, we visit the South of France, where sunlight prevailed.

The South of France, Colors Gone Wild. One of the essays in The Fauve Landscape is James D. Herbert’s “Painters and Tourists: Matisse and Derain on the Mediterranean Shore.” He writes, “Henri Matisse summered at Saint-Tropez on the Riviera in 1904 and in Collioure, near the Spanish border, in 1905. His younger colleague André Derain joined him at Collioure in 1905. As they depicted these sites, Matisse and Derain developed many of the distinctive painting techniques and treatments of theme that were to become hallmarks of the Fauve movement.”

Vue de Collioure, summer 1905, Henri Matisse. Oil on canvas, 23 7/16 x 28 3/4 in. The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

“The towns portrayed by Matisse and Derain,” Herbert continues, “were still sleepy fishing ports rather than the chic international resort or the French vacation center that Saint-Tropez and Collioure, respectively, have become today.”

Bateaux à Collioure, summer 1905, André Derain. Oil on canvas, 23 5/8 x 28 3/4 in. Kunstammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf.

Derain, Georges Braque and others also frequented L’Estaque, which, Freeman notes, “faced the port of Marseille and had its own slightly dilapidated harbor…. Derain’s paintings from L’Estaque are monumental… a radically new form of landscape with little semblance of naturalistic color.”

L’Estaque, 1906, André Derain. Oil on canvas, 28 1/4 x 36 1/4 in. Private collection.

Learning from the Master. Derain wrote to a colleague about what he was learning from Matisse in Collioure: “A new conception of light consisting in this: the negation of shadows. Light, here, is very strong, shadows very bright. Every shadow is a whole world of clarity and luminosity which contrasts with sunlight….”

Le Séchage des Voiles, summer 1905, André Derain. Oil on canvas, 32 5/16 x 39 3/4 in. State Pushkin Museum, Moscow.

Thoughts on Rousseau. Henri Rousseau was a contemporary of the Fauvists with showings at the Salons d’Automne. Wikipedia notes that he was “a French Post-Impressionist painter in the Naive or Primitive manner…. Ridiculed during his lifetime by critics, he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality.”

Pêcheurs à la Ligne avec Aéroplane, 1909, Henri Rousseau. Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 21 5/8 in. Image from Musée de l’Orangerie. My favorite Rousseau.

As noted in The Fauve Landscape, Derain commented on Rousseau’s work at the 1908 Salon d’Automne: “It seems hardly worthwhile searching and using technical training, when a person so simple, so pure, such a dope, in fact, can succeed in giving such an impression; his work is the triumph of the dopes.”

On the other hand, that same year Pablo Picasso held a banquet at his studio in Rousseau’s honor. Picasso told Rousseau, “You and I are the greatest painters of our time, you in the Egyptian style, I in the modern.”

What do you suppose either of these guys really meant? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

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