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The first of the major European avant-garde movements to have emerged between the turn of the 20th century and the outbreak of the First World War, it was distinguished by its concentration on a use of colour freed from a purely descriptive role and employed, instead, for expressive and emotional effect. The leading figure of Fauvism was Henri Matisse (1869–1954), who had come to realize the expressive power of colour when painting with Signac at St Tropez and then with Derain at Collioure in the summers of 1904 and 1905 respectively.
The name Fauvism derives from a remark of the critic Louis Vauxcelles at the 1905 Salon d'Automne where Matisse and his associates first exhibited as a discernible group. Pointing to a Quattrocento-like sculpture in the middle of one of the galleries he exclaimed: ‘Donatello [the great early Renaissance sculptor] entre les fauves’ (Donatello among the wild beasts). In addition to Matisse, other members of the group included Derain, Marquet, Rouault, Vlaminck, Braque, and Dufy. Their work was again prominently in evidence at the 1906 Salon des Indépendants. However, Fauvism can best be described as a phase and many of these artists rapidly moved in different directions. Fauvism had drawn on a variety of sources for its inspiration including Gauguin, Van Gogh, the Neo-Impressionists, and Cézanne. It would, in turn, itself prove highly influential, notably on both major German Expressionist movements, Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter.
Text source: The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Art Terms (2nd Edition) by Michael Clarke