The Fauvist and the Fish

Fauvist paintings were first exhibited in 1905 in the Salon D’Automne, in direct response to the official Salon that took place in Paris every spring. The major Fauve artists were Matisse, Vlaminck, Derain, and Rouault. The name Fauve – wild beast – was first used for their work by art critic Louis Vauxcelles, who said of a Roman sculpture in the Salon D’Automne, “Donatello among the wild beast.”

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) started his art career by painting in the traditional school, but by the early 1900s he had transitioned to near abstract painting style, loose brush strokes, and bold and intense colors that came to characterize Fauvism. The Fauves used vibrant bold colors to react against photography which was the new art form. Fauvists used colors and shapes to express emotion: achieving harmony by focusing on composition and colors that came together. Fauvism lasted as a unified art movement for a mere five years.

The Goldfish is a series of still-life paintings that Matisse painted of goldfish in a bowl. On a trip to Morocco, he had seen people staring at goldfish, and found the whole idea very relaxing. The function of the Goldfish painting was to evoke an emotional response, as well as to paint something that would provide contemplative relaxation to the viewer.

Matisse did not try to recreate reality, rather this is his pictorial reality – his version of a tranquil paradise with bright, bold colors, tilted tabletops, and multiple viewpoints.