André Derain, La Femme en chemise, La danseuse, 1906. National Gallery of Denmark. : © 2023, ProLitteris, Zurich. Foto/Photo: SMK Photo/Jakob Skou-Hansen

At the outset of the twentieth century, a loosely affiliated group of artists centring around Henri Matisse, André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck conducted revolutionary experiments in colour.

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 characterise the clique of artists who remained little known prior to 1905.

In the group’s expressive approach to the application of colour, its striking, often virulent colour schemes, and the rejection of naturalistic renderings of local colours, Vauxcelles discerned the break with academic precedent.

Fauvism was the premier avant-garde movement of the 20th century. Between 1904–1908, it set the pace in the Paris art scene for a brief period. Its impact endured long into the future, however.

Fauvism coincided with the Belle Époque, which lasted until 1914. This period heralded the rapid rise of urban mass society, industrialisation, technical innovations, fast-emerging mobility and the advertising and tourism industries.

The show (Matisse, Derain and Friends. The Paris Avant Garde 1904-1908) also features work by the artists Émilie Charmy and Marie Laurencin, and provides insights into the trade in Fauvist art, a trade in which gallerist Berthe Weill was to play a decisive role. Conventional perceptions as to the style of this movement, which left such an indelible stamp on modernism, are also called into question.