Art: Stroking Those Wild Beasts

What's in a name? Not much, the historian of art is bound to answer. Cubism was not about cubes, nor Fauvism about wild beasts. When in 1905 an affable critic looked round the Paris Salon d'Automne, which contained an Italianate bust surrounded by the paintings of Henri Matisse and his disciples, he made a wisecrack about "Donatella chez les fauves" (Donatello among the wild beasts), thus giving a short-lived movement a very durable and misleading label. Fauvism was worked out by a small group of artists over a span of three years; it...

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