Maurice De Vlaminck
Biography of French Fauvist Painter.

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Maurice De Vlaminck (1876-1958)


Early Years
Fauvism Movement
Fauvist Painters
Cezanne's Influence
Later Years

NOTE: For analysis of works by Fauvist painters like Maurice de Vlaminck,
please see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).

Important Art Works

Champs de Ble and Restaurant at Bougival
(1905-6) Musee d'Orsay, Paris. One of
the great 20th century paintings in the
Fauvist style.

Landscape with Red Trees (1906)
National Museum of Modern Art, Paris.

The Blue House (1906)
Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
A perfect example of how Vlaminck
used colour in painting.


An important figure in early 20th century French painting, the artist Maurice de Vlaminck was one of the founding members of the Fauvism movement, along with Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and Andre Derain (1880-1954). Born in Paris, Vlaminck was largely self-taught, indeed he boasted that he had never set foot inside the Louvre. while his friendship with Derain in 1900 was crucial to his artist development and career. In 1901 Vlaminck attended the Van Gogh exhibition in Paris, which completely overwhelmed him with its vivid colours, and convinced him to become a full time artist. He began painting landscapes and portraits, directly from the tube, in the manner of Van Gogh and the Impressionists. During the period 1905-7 he became a leading figure in the Fauvism movement, and it is for the famous landscape paintings which he produced at this time that he is best known. By 1908, he had become increasingly interested in the progressive idiom of Paul Cezanne (1839–1906). As a result, his colours became more muted and contemplative. Later in the 1920s he turned to a more realistic style of painting. Now seen as one of the top modern artists of the Ecole de Paris, De Vlaminck's best known expressionist paintings include The Bar Counter (1900, Musee Calvet, Avignon), The White House (1905-6, private collection), Tugboat on the Seine (1906, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC), Fields, Rueil (1906, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid), Sailing Boat (1906, private collection), Still Life (1907, Musee de l'Annonciade, St Tropez), Landscape with Red Trees (1906-7, Musee National d'Art Moderne, Georges Pompidou Centre), and Houses on the Banks of the Seine at Chatou (1906-7, private collection). For more about De Vlaminck's contribution to expressionism, see: History of Expressionist Painting.

Paintings by Maurice De Vlaminck
are also widely available online
in the form of poster art.

For an idea of the pigments
used by Maurice De Vlaminck, see:
Colour Palette Nineteenth Century.

For an explanation of the
terminology, see:
Art: Definition and Meaning.

For top creative practitioners, see:
Best Artists of All Time.
For the greatest view painters, see:
Best Landcape Artists.
For the greatest still life art, see:
Best Still Life Painters.

Early Years

Vlaminck was born in Paris in 1876 to a family of musicians. Initially he learned a living as a music teacher and professional cyclist. In 1893 he started tuition with a local artist Henri Rigalon. The turning point in his life came when he was 23 and met an aspiring young artist, Andre Derain, on a train trip. The two struck up what would become a formative, life-long friendship which hardened Vlaminck's amateur enthusiasm for painting. In 1900 the two artists rented a studio together. In 1901 they visited the Van Gogh exhibition at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris, and were both overwhelmed. Vlaminck was so moved, he proclaimed 'Van Gogh is my father'. His paintings became more colourful and expressive as he painted directly from the tube. During the same period Vlaminck formed, along with Derain, the Ecole de Chatou, (Chatou being a favourite spot for plein-air painting next to the Seine), a group that subsequently evolved into the Fauves.

Fauvism Movement

In 1900, Vlaminck met Matisse, a crucial contributor to the formation of the Fauves, although a fiercely competitive nature later led Vlaminck to repeatedly deny Matisse's contribution to the movement. In 1905 Vlaminck participated, along with Derain and Matisse, at the celebrated exhibition at the Salon d'Automne, which caused such an outcry with art critics and public alike. The influential art critic Louis Vauxcelles famously described their show as 'Donatello among the wild beasts'. He was comparing the trio's garish avant-garde art with the Renaissance sculptures on show nearby. Vlaminck's personal style at this time was mainly influenced by Van Gogh: his impasto was more prominent and his brushwork less organised than either Matisse or Derain. Probably his most important contribution to the group were his works Tugboat on the Seine (1906, National Gallery, Wshington DC) and Still Life (1907, Musee de l'Annonciade, St Tropez).

Fauvist Painters

As well as Vlaminck, Derain and Matisse, other important Fauvist painters included Louis Valtat (1869-1952), Albert Marquet (1875–1947), Raoul Dufy (1877–1953), Charles Camoin (1879–1965), Henri-Charles Manguin (1874-1949), Othon Friesz (1879-1949), the expressionist Georges Rouault (1871–1958), Kees van Dongen (1877-1968) and the Cubist Georges Braque (1882–1963). Vlaminck's individual style made him a leading figure of the movement, and he made a number of lucrative deals with prestigious art dealers, including Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) and Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler (1884-1979). An emotional painter, Vlaminck did not view the subject matter of his paintings as important: he merely sought to express himself through his use of colour and the act of painting itself. Perhaps not surprisingly therefore, by the end of 1906 he felt that he had exhausted his palette. How much more intense could his colours become? He was already squeezing pure paints onto the canvas, unmixed, what more was there to do?

Cezanne's Influence

In 1907, Vlaminck - like several others - began to distance himself from Fauvism, and Cezanne's intervention was timely. Paul Cezanne was one of the greatest Post-Impressionist painters, whose work can be said to have laid the foundations for a significant amount of early 20th century art. The fact that both Matisse and Picasso supposed stated that Cezanne "is the father of us all", is a clear indication of his influence. A 1907 retrospective of Cezanne's post-impressionism had a profound influence on Vlaminck, inspiring him to introduce more structure into his landscapes. Meanwhile the bright colours of his Fauvist years were replaced with more muted, contemplative colours. Cezanne's influence on Vlaminck continued until about 1910, and can be seen in such works as Factory Chimney at Puteaux (Chartres Museum) and The Seine Seen from Bougival (private collection).

Ambroise Vollard, who had bought all of Vlaminck's paintings from his studio in 1906, sent him to England in 1911 for inspiration. He returned with a collection of beautiful landscapes including Southampton (1911, private collection) and Tower Bridge (1911, private collection). In 1913 he spent some time in Martigues with Derain, and returned with a powerful painting of the Old Port of Marseille (1913, private collection).

Later Years

Vlaminck was hostile to most abstract art, showing a complete disinterest in Cubism, Futurism as well as Suprematism, Constructivism and De Stijl. Paradoxically, this didn't prevent his broken, loose brushwork from acting as a precursor for abstract expressionism during the 1940s and 50s. After the War he settled in the country and gravitated towards trends that were more naturalistic, while preserving a degree of expressive colour and brushwork. Although he never again attained the freshness and spontaneity of his early 30s, his reputation grew steadily between the wars. Sadly, accusations of wartime collaboration with the Nazis did serious damage to his standing. An accomplished printmaker, book illustrator and writer, Vlaminck was also an important collector of African and Australasian sculpture. He died in 1958.

Fauvist paintings by Maurice De Vlaminck can be seen in many of the best art museums throughout the world.

• For more biographies of Fauvist artists in Paris, see: 20th Century Painters.
• For more about 20th century expressionism, see: Homepage.

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