Port Vendres – Discover the Fauvism Road

Visit the hometown of the Wild Beast artists, Henri Matisse and André Derain, on the French Expressionists of Collioure shore excursion.

How shocking it was at the time. Saturated colors exploded on canvas. Unrealistic, bold strokes and bright colors. A bit abstract.

The art critics were not kind. WILD BEASTS (les fauves) he said when he saw the work of Henri Matisse and André Derain. It was 1905.

A street scene in Collioure  with cobblestone walkways and colorful buildings
Walk the streets of Collioure and discover its rich history

Matisse and Derain did not mean to be shocking, but this bold use of color had never be seen before in the art world. And so Fauvism was born, led by Matisse and Derain, but joined by many other artists who experimented with the style. A short lived movement, and the first 20th century modern art movement, it petered out by 1908 but was an influential stepping stone for artists and later art movements.

Image of Matisse's "Woman with a Hat" artwork
Woman with a Hat (Femme au chapeau), 1905 by Henri Matisse

Fauvism was seen as an extension of expressionism of artists such as Van Gogh. But in Fauvism, paintings were vivid with non-naturalistic color. Blocks of color and full of emotion, the art was expressing a new way of seeing things. The use of complementary colors was a key component. The artists used complementary colors that appeared opposite each other on the color wheel as developed in the 19th century. The pairing of these colors made each appear brighter. Think of using blue and orange together or yellow and purple.

The paintings were kept simple, more abstract than most paintings during this time, with a focus on the intense use of color to illustrate a scene. Landscapes and simple scenes of everyday life were suited for this style. They used large areas of color, wild dabs of paint or paint applied directly from the tube.

Collioure features numerous frames around the village framing up views painted by the Fauvist artists
Collioure features numerous frames around the village framing up views painted by the Fauvist artists

With this base of understanding about the Fauvism art style, travel into the small fishing town of Collioure, just 15 miles from Spain, to see where artists Matisse and Derain lived during this time. Take the Path of Fauvism along the waterfront and see their (replica) paintings as you take in the scenery that inspired them. You may feel inspired to grab your own brush, paint and paper.

Key ideas behind Fauvism

  • Color as an independent element, not true to the natural world
  • Balance with use of simplified forms and saturated color
  • Individual expression, emotional response instead of academic theory
  • Abstraction
  • Energetic brushstrokes, sometimes straight from the tube

“When I put down a green, it doesn’t mean grass; and when I put down a blue, it doesn’t mean the sky.” Henri Matisse

“For us Fauvism was like an ordeal by fire…our paints became sticks of dynamite. They were supposed to explode with light.” André Derain

A 7-day Yachtsman’s Harbors of the Rivieras cruise whisks you away into the small villages and harbors dotting the Mediterranean coast such as Port Vendres, France.

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