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Fauvism was a period of change

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A lot of things change. Think about a butterfly. It starts off as a caterpillar, and then turns into a butterfly. In between those stages, it is in a cocoon, where it’s not really a caterpillar like before, but it’s not yet a butterfly. It’s a period of change.

Fauvism is a period of art that was a change from Impressionism, leading up to cubism. It didn’t last very long, from 1898 to 1908, just ten years, but it is important because it changed the way people thought about color.

At the end of the nineteenth century, neo Impressionist painters, or pointillism, were using pure colors, but it was applied in small strokes or dots. The fauves also used bold colors, but in a violent and bold way. It was seen as “shocking” or angry. That’s why they were nicknamed “Les Fauves”. It is a French term that means “wild beast”. It means that their art was angry, full of energy, and untamed. It was the first time that artists broke the rules about what art was supposed to look like.

Fauvist refers to a group of painters with a shared ambition; to use pure, brilliant color, applied straight from the paint tubes, in an aggressive, direct manner, to make a type of visual explosion on the canvas. The fauves painted from nature, just as the Impressionist did, but they captured a strong expressive reaction to the subject. But it isn’t really a movement, because each artist had a different style of way of exploring the use of bold colors. The leader of the movement was Henri Matisse.

Matisse was a law clerk before he began to study art. He was a student of Gustave Moreau, whose experiments with color and symbolism were important in the development of Matisse’s style. He studied the masters of Postimpressionism, Gauguin, van Gogh, and Seurat. He admired their use of color and brush work, but took it up to a new level, using a different type of space. Instead of using perspective to create a feeling of space, he used eye movement and contrast. The movement's emphasis on formal values and expressive use of color, line, and brushwork helped liberate painting from the representational expectations that had dominated Western art since the Renaissance.

Matisse used his sense of humor to create other things besides fine art. He made illustrations for books, tapestry and rug design, and architectural decoration as well. From 1944 to the end of his life, he made decoupes. In French, de means “from” and coupe means “to cut”. He cut shapes from colored paper and pasted them onto fields of white. These pictures, which use vibrant color with energetic lines, are considered to be his best work.

Grade 5

Materials: scrap paper, charcoal, large sheet of white paper, scraps of construction paper, glue, scissors, examples of Matisse’s still life paintings and decoupes.

Draw a picture using large simple shapes on scrap paper. Draw the lines with charcoal, using thin but dark lines. Take a piece of construction paper, and place it over one shape. Rub the paper down to transfer the charcoal. Cut out the shape, and place it aside. Continue this method until all of the shapes have been transferred and cut out.

Arrange the shapes on the large sheet of white paper, using the original drawing for a pattern. Remember that the side with charcoal on it is the back side. Glue the shapes down, working from the back towards the front so that the pieces overlap correctly.

Sunshine State Standards

VA.C.1.3.1 understands and uses information from historical and cultural themes, trends, styles, periods of art, and artists.


  1. The student demonstrated an understanding of Matisse’s style by drawing a picture that was similar.
  2. The student demonstrated an understanding of Fauvism by choosing bright colors.
  3. The student used good craftsmanship in transferring and cutting the pieces.
  4. The student was responsible in handling the tools and glue.


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