The Met To Present Works By Henri Matisse And Andre Derain From The Beginning Of Fauvism

"Vertigo Of Color" Is First Exhibition In U.S. To Explore This Influential Movement In European Modern Art

November 17, 2023

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and Andre Derain (1880-1954) embarked on a creative partnership in the summer of 1905 that would change the course of French painting. The two painters daringly experimented with energetic bursts of color, form, and structure, the outcome of which led to a bold, new artistic language known as Fauvism (from the French fauve, or "wild beast"). Now on view at The Met, "Vertigo of Color: Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism" presents for the first time in the United States, the legacy of that legendary summer through 65 paintings, drawings, and watercolors by Matisse and Derain on loan from national and international museums and private collections. The exhibition is made possible by The Florence Gould Foundation. Additional support is provided by an Anonymous Foundation. "This captivating exhibition not only speaks to the transformative partnership of Matisse and Derain, but it also provides a highly focused and engaging view of their groundbreaking artistic practices," said Max Hollein, The Met's Marina Kellen French Director and CEO. "Vertigo of Color is remarkable in that the works are largely experimental, giving us the opportunity to understand their process and look back at a singular moment that has so powerfully resonated with generations of artists and audiences." It was the partnership between the two artists, along with their intense investigations of color and light and their will to experiment outside the canon, that led to Fauvism in the early years of the last century. While staying in the modest fishing village of Collioure, Matisse and Derain worked toward a new aesthetic of color and light, drawing inspiration from local surroundings and their experience of the bustling life of the port, quiet beaches, and landscapes. Their evolving visual language grew from the sensory experience of a moment in time, rather than from observable reality, a sweep of sand brushed in saturated red, a cork oak tree delineated in pink, shadows of reflected light in dazzling hues. Matisse wrote, "My choice of colors does not rest on any scientific theory; it is based on observation, on feeling, on the experience of my sensibility." "As the story of a rewarding partnership, this exhibition is the first to focus intently on the paintings, drawings, and watercolors that laid the groundwork for Fauvism," said Dita Amory, Robert Lehman curator in charge of the Robert Lehman collection. "In just nine weeks, Matisse and Derain revolutionized color and liberated brushwork, paving the way for modernism." Exhibiting several paintings at the Salon d'Automne in Paris in November 1905, Matisse and Derain were both derided and praised. They puzzled audiences and stirred controversy, and soon galvanized a group of contemporary artists to follow in their path, a new path in European art that radically contradicted conventional norms. Responding to the now-legendary Salon exhibition, a prominent French journalist labeled them and their fellow artists "les Fauves," literally "wild beasts." Though Fauvism was short-lived, it gave rise to a ravishing palette in an evolving modernist dialogue, and the Salon d'Automne played a key role in disseminating its inventions. "Vertigo of Color: Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism," which is co-organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will feature many of the most celebrated works of Fauvism. The works on view will include loans from Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou; National Galleries of Scotland; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York; as well as private collections. "Vertigo of Color" will also present significant works on paper, sketches, portraits, and intimate drawings, and will feature the original catalogue for the Salon d'Automne of 1905. While landscapes, seascapes, and portraits feature prominently, still lifes by Matisse detailing fresh local produce will provide another platform for investigations of color and form. While the exhibition foregrounds the marvelous partnership of the two artists, it also traces how their approaches to painting and drawing differed: Derain was determined to finish his canvases in Collioure, while Matisse chose to gather inspiration and source material and then work in his Paris studio. Vertigo of Color will demonstrate Matisse's immense influence on modernism in the early years of the 20th century. The exhibition closes with a selection of paintings dating to 1906. It was in the following years that Matisse and Derain realized some of their most important paintings of the period, paintings that owe a debt to the experiments of Collioure. The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, it will be available for purchase from The Met Store. Authors include curators Dita Amory and Ann Dumas; Met conservator Isabel Duvernois; and Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, Curator Emerita, Centre Pompidou, Paris. The publication is made possible by the Janice H. Levin Fund. To learn more, visit


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