April 13, 2024


Sublime Arts Bar None

Fauvism and the American Color Field Painters

Fauvism was a short-lived approach to painting focused in France between 1905 and 1907. Fauvism was characterized by inventive shapes and lines, a pictorial logic based on internal relationships rather than naturalism, and the use of bright, sensationalistic color.

The most prominent members of the Fauvist movement were Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. The paintings of the Fauves were characterized by energetic brush work and strident colors. Their subjects usually possessed a high degree of simplification and abstraction. Fauvism can be seen as an extreme development of Post-Impressionism(particularly Van Gogh) and Pointillism (especially Georges Seurat).

The central role of color in painting is the aspect of Fauvism most notably shared with the American Color Field painters. Of the three most prominent American color field artists (Helen Frankenthaler, b.1928; Morris Louis, 1912-1962; and Kenneth Noland, b.1924), Frankenthaler has the most direct links to Fauvism.

Frankenthaler adopted much of Fauvism’s pictorial logic, including the juxtaposition of discrete areas of irregularly contoured color. This association is clear in Frankenthaler’s enjoyable painting Tutti Frutti (1966). In Tutti Frutti, Frankenthaler has placed large, organically shaped patches of red, orange, blue, yellow, yellow-green, blue-green and teal adjacent to one another in a puzzle-like arrangement. The bright colors play off of one another and interact with one another in an exaggerated, good-humored way.

This sense of optimism and the celebration of color and pleasure are associated with the aims of Fauvism. Fauvism’s liberation of color from symbolic overtones and its view of color as a way to express vitality and well-being are compelling messages carried forward in much of Frankenthaler’s work as well as in American Color Field painting in general.