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Decade follows decade in art, like waves breaking on a beach, each bringing its own
“deposits” which, in turn, cover those that came before, dimming what had once
seemed strikingly brilliant. But time does not work on everything with equal
force. The art of the Fauves has not faded. Born within French painting at the turn of
the century, Fauvism immediately demanded attention.
The stormy reaction it provoked on its emergence in Paris in 1905 was, in itself, an
acknowledgement of the strength of this new phenomenon in the fine arts. Fauvism was
a real danger to academically congealed art calculated to appeal to the narrow-minded
customer, to all painting which sought after prosperity by carefully absorbing innovation,
turning it into the fashionable that would shock no-one through unwarranted boldness.
Two or three years proved sufficient for the Fauvist painters to acquire — if not a
permanent public, then at least their own dealers and admirers. The hostile voices which
continued to make themselves heard were not enough to hinder the Fauves from competing
freely with other trends. Each of them lived a life in keeping with his character and the
unique features of his work, yet none of them experienced long years of hopeless poverty
or a sense of impotence in the struggle with the might of official art. None of the Fauves
left a studio full of works piled up and never sold — in this sense fate was kinder to them
than to Gauguin, Van Gogh, or Toulouse-Lautrec.
Even during their lifetimes, the Fauves’
paintings had found a place in the greatest private collections and then in museums, while
they themselves were written about in the press and respected by contemporaries. The
Fauves were acknowledged masters before they reached the age when grey locks and a noble
bearing often stood substitute for true measures of talent. It might seem that when the
general public would become more familiar with them, the intensity of the first reaction
would diminish, but this was not the case. They are all long since gone, yet one still
experiences a sense of shock on encountering their paintings.