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  • Writer's pictureMakalla Shernick

The “Wild Beasts” of the Early Twentieth Century

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

Fauvism—a touchstone for abstraction.


Fauvism was the first of the modern movements that emerged in the early twentieth century. Initially, the movement was inspired by post-impressionist artwork from artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and Paul Cézanne. The Fauves consisted of French artists Henri Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, Andre Derain, Kees van Dongen, Raoul Dufy, and Georges Braque. Matisse would rise as the key leader of the group that would be instrumental in the formation of the later Cubist and Expressionist movements.



The Fauves defining characteristic was imbuing emotion and expression into paintings of natural subjects through the use of a high-key tonal range and vibrant colors. Oftentimes, Fauves would paint directly from the tubes of color and would forgo any color mixing. Further, their artwork featured simplified forms, fragmented shapes, and a rejection of the traditional 3D picture plane.


Defining elements of Fauvism are fundamental to graphic design today. One of the most important features of effective graphic design is the simplification of forms. This can be seen in logos, symbols, posters, computer icons, and more. By studying the Fauves and invariably the beginning of abstraction in art, graphic designers can take inspiration and produce bold and impactful designs.


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