- In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist ArtOur Pickby Sue Roe
- Les Fauves: A sourcebookby Russell T. Clement
- Dangerous Cornerby Maurice de Vlaminck
Important Art by Maurice de Vlaminck
Vlaminck paints a satirical caricature of a woman sitting at a bar as a means of exposing the problem of prostitution and alcoholism in capitalist society. He may have been influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec's portrayal of prostitutes and solitary drinkers, however, he claimed that it was not his goal to convey the sitter's psychology. Although the woman is staring out at the viewer, her gaze is blank, detached. Rather than avoiding creating a psychological portrait, Vlaminck has succeeded in lending the woman, with her vapid stare, a stark and tragic demeanor. The figure dominates the canvas; she is thrust to the foreground in which her massive drink rests, forcing the viewer to candidly engage with her as might well be the case with a heavily inebriated person.
The woman's messy hair and worn clothes suggest that she is part of the working class. Her reddish nose is visual shorthand for alcoholism, which is emphasized by the oversized red glass on the bar. The rough brushwork and rudimentary modeling are just as suggestive of the artist's perception of his subject as they are descriptive of her actual appearance. The artist offsets the depressing mood of the painting by somewhat salaciously mocking the sitter's oversized breasts to represent the last two zeros in the year that it was completed, 1900. The lurid colors of the figure contrast sharply with the dark background in which a street lamp seems to offer little protection from the hazards of the night.
Another of Vlaminck's works that explore the world of prostitution and dancehall entertainers, Reclining Nude represents a modern take on a classical subject: the female nude. He paints his subject using vibrant, unnatural colors and accentuates her features by way of colorful, overdone cosmetics creating a mask-like visage. The body is heavily outlined and simplified to the point where it is basically an amalgam of abstract shapes. The curving outline of the figure mimics the swirls of colored drapery in the background, lending the composition a decorative effect. The artist creates depth and volume by building the surface of the canvas up with his use of flat passages of thickly applied paint.
Like Manet's Olympia (1863), also a prostitute, Vlaminck represents the sexual encounter she offers as a commodity. Like her counterpart in the Manet painting, Vlaminck's reclining nude confronts the viewer with her powerful, unwavering gaze. Unlike a traditional, idealized nude female, this unknown woman is meant to represent a boldly naked, unquestionably modern woman. One hand grasps an article of clothing that she has recently removed, further emphasizing the process of seduction. Like Manet and Derain, Vlaminck attempts to represent the "splendor and misery" of capitalism in modern life - specifically, the reality of modern life for working class women. While Vlaminck's nude is grotesque; quite likely, he intended for the viewer to understand that the woman has contracted and is suffering from syphilis, thus the "misery" component of the piece, he makes the work less overtly bleak by using bright, almost celebratory colors - the consummate Fauve palette.
Vlaminck lived and worked for over a decade in the small town, Chatou. This painting captures a view from the Île de Chatou in the Seine river, which also runs through Paris. The view is framed by two trees, a conventional device of landscape painting. Despite the bright colors that dominate the picture, the bands of darker tones mixed with white in the sky suggest that a storm is moving in. The absence of people in the painting conveys the sense of isolation and loneliness regular inhabitants of the popular tourist site may have experienced after the vacation season ended. Unlike his Impressionist predecessors, Vlaminck does not celebrate the culture of leisure.
Characteristic of the Fauve style, Vlaminck refrains from producing realistically rendered shadows and instead uses complementary colors to suggest an essentially deserted town on a quiet autumn afternoon. His lively, linear brushwork creates a sort of rhythmic pattern across the canvas. The minimal visual descriptions of objects, whether houses, trees, river, or clouds, provides this landscape with a kind of abstract simplicity made less serene by the swirls of color and twisting trees, which are indicative of the strong influence of van Gogh. Indeed, after seeing van Gogh's retrospective in 1901, Vlaminck was deeply inspired by the artist and declared, "I loved van Gogh that day better than my own father!"