Thursday, 16 July 2009

Maurice de Vlaminck

'Good painting is like good cooking; it can be tasted, but not explained.' Maurice de Vlaminck

Village on the River, 1915

The Mortagne Road

The Harvest

'I heightened all my tone values and transposed into an orchestration of pure color with every single thing I felt. I was a tender-hearted savage filled with violence. I translated what I saw instinctively, without any method, and conveyed truth, not so much artistically but humanely.' Maurice de Vlaminck

Fauvism is the movement with which Vlaminck will always be most closely associated.

However, Fauvism was a very short movement and the artist had a very long career. His work briefly leaned towards Cubism (which he professed to loathe) prior to World War I; afterwards it settled into an Expressionistic style that Vlaminck maintained for the rest of his life. The important thing to remember is that, regardless of which labels we now assign to his work, he (a self-taught artist) operated instinctively. He didn't and wouldn't care what we call his approach--he was simply being true to his gut.

How He Came to Art

Vlaminck had taken a smattering of drawing classes and tried his hand at painting, but it was a chance incident that reportedly led him to make art his career. While serving his mandatory 3-year military obligation, he met the painter André Derain in 1900, when the train on which both men were riding derailed. A lifelong friendship was struck, as well as a deal to share a studio in Chatou. It was in this picturesque Seine valley village--previously popular with the Impressionists--that Vlaminck began painting in earnest. (Never a thought towards selling, mind you. He quite simply was overcome by the urge to paint.)

When Art Noticed Him

Vlaminck attended a Parisian van Gogh exhibition in 1901 and was blown away by Vincent's color choices. At this same show, Derain introduced his studio mate to Henri Matisse--perhaps the most bold colorist to ever hold a brush. Vlaminck absorbed these options, and spent the next few years pouring riotously-hued landscapes back out onto canvas.

Convinced by Derain and Matisse to show, Vlaminck began exhibiting with them in 1904. The 1905 Salon d'Automne exhibition was where the trio and a few other like minded artists received the (snarky) moniker fauves (wild beasts) from the art critic Louis Vauxcelle.

Ironically, the indifferent-to-sales Vlaminck began to sell any- and everything he painted, so in demand were the canvases of this "wild beast." After meeting Paul Cézanne, Vlaminck's work took a turn towards balancing color with more structured compositions.

He is best known today for his Fauvism period--a span of no more than seven years. Vlaminck's later work (the bulk of his career) continued to concentrate on color, sell well and be seen in exhibitions that he did not attend. In addition to painting, he produced some fine lithographs, etchings and woodcuts, and authored and illustrated a number of books.

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