Maurice de Vlaminck’s rebel works are welcomed in Paris
PARIS -- There’s a wild beast on the loose in Paris’ sedate Luxembourg Museum. Powerful slashes of red, orange and blue explode from the walls, marking his path.
The works of Maurice de Vlaminck, the rebel artist who helped push painting to its outer limits in the early 20th century, are on view through July 20 at the museum on the grounds of the French Senate, the first showing of his works in Paris in 52 years.
Vlaminck was among the founders of the period known as “Fauve,” literally “wild beast.” It is an apt moniker for a physically imposing, self-taught artist who defied painterly rules of the day with extravagant colors, unbridled energy and an unstudied spontaneity.
“Vlaminck, a Fauve Instinct” gathers 97 works from 1900 to 1915, including a score of ceramics, and follows the artist on his personal trajectory from discovery of color to his later search for a new style. Nature was his great love, and landscapes, for which he is best known, predominate. However, portraits and still lifes are included and help trace Vlaminck’s artistic path 50 years after his death.
The brief but pivotal Fauvist period began in 1905 and lasted less than three years but helped liberate painting and feed a new era, ultimately leading to Cubism and abstract art.
The Fauvists burst onto the art scene in 1905 at the Salon d’Autumn, an alternate exhibition for a new wave of artists. A miffed art critic gave them their name, a derogatory reference to their refusal to adhere to known techniques. The exhibition became known as the “cage aux fauves,” or cage of wild beasts. Vlaminck, Andre Derain and Henri Matisse were among them.
However, it was Vlaminck, inspired by Vincent van Gogh and joined by Derain in an atelier in Chatou, outside Paris, who set the Fauvist period in motion. Vlaminck, who lived from 1876 to 1958, finished in the shadow of his colleagues, but his work was seminal, capturing, as curator Maithe Valles-Bled says, the instinct of the Fauvist period.
“Vlaminck had a truly instinctive, spontaneous, immediate relationship with painting, with paint,” said Valles-Bled. “This runaway, aggressive, rebel character . . . let himself go with color.”
An artistic purist who described himself as an anarchist, Vlaminck once said proudly that he had never visited a museum. He pretended at one point to be illiterate, although he ultimately wrote several books and memoirs.
Vlaminck struggled to find his mark as Fauvism, a period of mutation, came to a natural end.
The Fauvists “understood that they couldn’t go further than this maximum of color,” said Valles-Bled.