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Artists in 60 Seconds: Maurice de Vlaminck

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© 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris; used with permission

Maurice de Vlaminck (French, 1876-1958). Autumn Landscape, 1905. Oil on canvas. 46.2 x 55.2 cm (18 1/4 x 21 3/4 in.). Gift of Nate B. and Frances Spingold, 1973. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Digital Image © 2007 The Museum of Modern Art.

© 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Digital Image © 2007 Scala, Florence.

Movement, Style, School or Type of Art:

Fauvism is the movement with which Vlaminck will always be most closely associated.

However, Fauvism was a very short movement and the artist had a very long career. His work briefly leaned towards Cubism (which he professed to loathe) prior to World War I; afterwards it settled into an Expressionistic style that Vlaminck maintained for the rest of his life. The important thing to remember is that, regardless of which labels we now assign to his work, he (a self-taught artist) operated instinctively. He didn't and wouldn't care what we call his approach--he was simply being true to his gut.

Date and Place of Birth:

April 4, 1876, Paris

Maurice was born to two musicians: Edmond Julien de Vlaminck, his father, was a pianist, violinist and tenor. His mother, Josephine Grillet, who was from Lorraine, was also a pianist. Because the artist grew up in this household, music came as naturally to him as breathing. In the early years of his adult life, he was able to help support his young family by taking on violin students and getting the occasional paying gig. But, even though it was second-nature, music never lit the fires of passion in Vlaminck that visual art did.

Early Life:

Young Maurice didn't have the benefit of a top-drawer education, but he was intellectually curious, emotionally fearless and physically imposing. Vlaminck grew to be a tall, strong, red-haired man prone to wearing loud colors and a gaudy wooden necktie. He married for the first time in his teens and worked (in addition to giving music lessons) to support his wife and daughters as a wrestler, billiards shooter, mechanic, laborer and professional cyclist before a bout with typhus weakened him. He also discovered that he could write, and penned several risqué novels--anything to pay the bills.

How He Came to Art:

Vlaminck had taken a smattering of drawing classes and tried his hand at painting, but it was a chance incident that reportedly led him to make art his career. While serving his mandatory 3-year military obligation, he met the painter André Derain in 1900, when the train on which both men were riding derailed. A lifelong friendship was struck, as well as a deal to share a studio in Chatou. It was in this picturesque Seine valley village--previously popular with the Impressionists--that Vlaminck began painting in earnest. (Never a thought towards selling, mind you. He quite simply was overcome by the urge to paint.)

When Art Noticed Him:

Vlaminck attended a Parisian van Gogh exhibition in 1901 and was blown away by Vincent's color choices. At this same show, Derain introduced his studio mate to Henri Matisse--perhaps the most bold colorist to ever hold a brush. Vlaminck absorbed these options, and spent the next few years pouring riotously-hued landscapes back out onto canvas.

Convinced by Derain and Matisse to show, Vlaminck began exhibiting with them in 1904. The 1905 Salon d'Automne exhibition was where the trio and a few other like minded artists received the (snarky) moniker fauves (wild beasts) from the art critic Louis Vauxcelle.

Ironically, the indifferent-to-sales Vlaminck began to sell any- and everything he painted, so in demand were the canvases of this "wild beast." After meeting Paul Cézanne, Vlaminck's work took a turn towards balancing color with more structured compositions.

He is best known today for his Fauvism period--a span of no more than seven years. Vlaminck's later work (the bulk of his career) continued to concentrate on color, sell well and be seen in exhibitions that he did not attend. In addition to painting, he produced some fine lithographs, etchings and woodcuts, and authored and illustrated a number of books.

Important Works:

  • Man Smoking a Pipe, 1900
  • Portrait of Derain, 1905
  • Potato Pickers, 1905-07
  • Self Portrait, 1912
  • The Red Tractor, 1956

See pictures of Maurice de Vlaminck's work in the Special Exhibition Gallery - Vlaminck, a Fauvist Instinct.

Date and Place of Death:

October 11, 1958, Rueil-la-Gadelière, Eure-et-Loir, France

Vlaminck apparently expended most of the drama in his life on his paintings. He died peacefully of old age at "La Tourillière," the farmhouse he bought in 1925.

How To Pronounce "Vlaminck":

    vlah·mink

This is the French pronunciation of the Belgian spelling of Vlaming, more commonly known as Fleming ("person from Flanders") in the English-speaking world.

Quotes From Maurice de Vlaminck:

  • Good painting is like good cooking; it can be tasted, but not explained.

  • I heightened all my tone values and transposed into an orchestration of pure color with every single thing I felt. I was a tender-hearted savage filled with violence. I translated what I saw instinctively, without any method, and conveyed truth, not so much artistically but humanely.

  • I seem initially to have followed Fauvism, and then to have followed in Cézanne's footsteps. Whatever--I do not mind ... as long as first of all I remained Vlaminck.

Sources and Further Reading

  • Derain, André. Lettres à Vlaminck.
    Paris : Flammarion, 1955.

  • Rewald, John. Vlaminck (1876-1958) His Fauve Period (1903-1907).
    New York : Perls Galleries, 1968.
    Buy Direct

  • Selz, Jean. Vlaminck.
    New York : Crown Publishers, 1963.
    Buy Direct

  • Vlaminck, Maurice de. Vlaminck, Master of Graphic Art: A Retrospective
    Exhibition of Graphic Works, 1905-1926
    (exh. cat.).
    Chicago : R. S. Johnson-International Gallery, 1975.

  • Walterskirchen, Katalin De. Maurice De Vlaminck
    Catalogue Raisonne De L'oeuvre Grave
    .
    Paris : Flammarion, 1974.
    Buy Direct

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