Maurice de Vlaminck

Maurice de Vlaminck

Maurice de Vlaminck was a French painter, one of the major representatives of Fauvism.

Maurice Vlaminck was fauvist by his character. A true anarchist, he neglected all social stereotypes and openly opposed public opinion. Before becoming a painter, Vlamick had worked as a mechanist and turner, participated in races as professional bicyclist. In 1929 he wrote a book with memoirs “Dangerous corner”, where all his childishly frank, straight and impulsive personality was exposed. The artist used to say he preferred directness of self-expression to contemplation, introspection and refined aestheticism.

Early years

Maurice de Vlaminck was born in Paris on April 4, 1876, in a poor, but intelligent family of musicians, In 1878 Vlamincks moved to Le Vésinet in the western suburbs of Paris, in a bend of the Seine. Images of the river from his childhood would be further represented in Maurice’s art. Because of difficult financial situation, the boy had to begin working from early on, so, despite his inclination to painting, he got no serious professional artistic education.

He started painting only in 1892, when he became more or less self-sufficient. In 1893 he attended the studio of a local artist Henri Rigalon. Besides, the young man dedicated himself to the bicycle sport. To earn for living Maurice played in a gypsy orchestras and gave musical lessons, an in 1898 – 1899 tried his hand in journalism.

Impressionistic period

At the end of his 3-years military service, Vlaminck met Henri Derrain, who would become his life-long friend. In 1901 at one of the exhibitions, he got acquainted with Van Gogh’s art and all his early period was marked by influence of that famous Dutch master.

Yet, the impact of impressionistic manner was also visible in his first pieces. Together with Henri Derain he painted en plein air on the riverbanks of the Siene, creating vivid landscapes in bright colors. “The Pond at Saint-Cucufa” (1903) is noticeable composition typical for that period of the master’s oeuvre, defined by fresh and lush coloring, as the author attempted to capture the quickly-fleeting moments of life and beauty around him.. At that stage Vlaminck’s favorite tints were primrose, ultramarine and emerald-green.

Another of his canvases “Les Bords de la Seine à Bougival” (1904) is fill of joyfulness. We can see young juicy grass on the foreground of the painting and glittering surface of the river with a row of provincial houses on the opposite bank. The distancing from impressionistic principles can be seen there, as Maurice’s aim was not in depicting his impressions from nature, but to represent his own, individual perception of the surrounding. The silhouettes of the objects was clearly outlined; local applying of paint allowed achieving rather decorative effect. However, the sky was still rendered in impressionistic way – it’s transparent and dynamic, due to sweeping brushstrokes of light-blue.

Development of Fauvistic manner

At the beginning of 1900s Maurice Vlaminck was introduced to the major representatives of the Fauvist group – Henri Matisse and Georges Henri Rouault. The new movement was consonant to the painter’s views and attitude to the world: because Vlaminck had independently came up to its aesthetics, it comes as now surprise he passionately devoted himself to Fauvism. It suited best his unrestrained personal and creative temper. Now Maurice’s exalted colors became so vigorous and rich that (together with ignoring chiaroscuro modeling and perspective) they turned the space of a canvas into whirlpool of hues, an entire decorative surface.

In 1904 Vlaminck’s works were on display at the Berthe Weill gallery in Paris; in a year he participated in the Salon des Indépendants and in the Salon d’Automne together with Matisse and Derain, van Dongen, Camoin and Puy. The critic Louis Vauxcelles wittily called them ‘Fauves’.
The shift in the painter’s visual language is obvious in such pieces as “Houses at Chatou” (1903), “Streets of Marly-le-Roi” (1904), “ Banks of the Seine at Chatou” (1905 – 1906) and Landscape with Red Trees” (1906). “The Circus” painting (1906) is composed from miniature geometrical elements. The master used wide confident brushstrokes, preferring such colors as orange, pink and green. As the result, the viewer could see not the real object itself, but got emotions it had provoked in the author’s mind.

Cezanne’s influence

In 1906 Vollard noticed the master and bought some of his canvases. The financial situation was gradually improving as Vlamink started making his living with art. His first solo exhibition took place in Vollard’s gallery in 1907. By the end of 1900s – beginning of 1910s Maurice Vlaminck got carried away with Paul Cezanne’s manner. It looked like the artist had reached the limit in the rave of color and suddenly his palette became restrained and austere. Like in Cezanne’s works, it was now dominated by blue and green hues. The character of brushstroke also changed. It wasn’t impetuous and energetic but more tense and smooth. The canvases were calmer by the atmosphere, however, sometimes anxious, almost feverish notes burst up in them, witnessing the depressed state of the author at that period.

Animation with Cezanne’s art led the painter to cubism. But soon Maurice felt his creative freedom had been limited by rationalistic conception of cubism. Refusal of overthinking theoretical base of his pieces led to Vlaminck’s break up with Derain, who insisted on it.

In 1911 Vlaminck travelled across Great Britain. Captivated by nature of the Foggy Albion, Maurice create a painting series of romantic spirit: dark-colored landscapes with mysterious flashes and reflections of the riverside buildings in cold waters (“Tower Bridge”, 1911, “Southampton”, 1911).
During World War I the artist worked as a draughtsman on a defense factory and returned to expressionistic manner after the war.

Last years

In 1925 Maurice bought house in Rueil-la-Gadelière in Northern France, where he settled till the end of his life. Hence the countryside landscape were predominant in his last period. They were also covered with sense of uneasiness and mysteriousness. Such dramatism one can see in the canvases “The Road along the Park” (1925), “Normandy, Apple Trees in the Snow” (1926), “Red House” (1939) make Vlaminck’s legacy close to Expressionism. Apart from landscapes, the artist often worked on still lifes with flowers or foods and kitchenware, whereas portraits interested him comparatively rare.

Maurice de Vlaminck died on October 11, 1958, in Rueil-la-Gadelière.

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