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Fauvism

Meet the “wild beasts” of the early-20th-century art world.


Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading)

Henri Matisse
(French, 1869–1954)

1906. Oil on canvas, 28 5/8 x 23 1/2" (72.7 x 59.7 cm)

Matisse’s daughter Marguerite was often a model for her father’s paintings. In Interior with a Young Girl Reading, she sits quietly, absorbed in a book—depicted with bold marks and vivid, planes of opposing and often complementary colors. The surrounding room and furniture demand as much attention as do the sitter and objects in the foreground. Matisse asserted, “What counts most with colors are relationships.”1 He selected a palette of bright colors, including many areas of white infused with color, creating an overall decorative effect and a flattened space, albeit one abuzz with tension. To further flatten the scene, he has upturned the table, sloping it forward.

Matisse debuted this radical style of painting at the Salon d’Automne in Paris—an alternative annual exhibition seen by a large audience of patrons and public—the year this painting was made. There an art critic dubbed Matisse and his group the “Fauves” or “wild beasts.”

Henri Matisse in Foster, Hal, et. al. Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2004), 75.

The area of an image—usually a photograph, drawing, or painting—that appears closest to the viewer.

Colors located opposite one another on the color wheel. When mixed together, complementary colors produce a shade of gray or brown. When one stares at a color for a sustained period of time then looks at a white surface, an afterimage of the complementary color will appear.