Vlaminck is considered one of the principal figures in the
Fauve movement, a group of modern artists who
from 1904 to 1908 were united in their use of intense color. Along with
artists such as André Derain and
Henri Matisse , Maurice Vlaminck shifted
the style of
Post Impressionism into the wildly
colorful art of Fauvism. Maurice de Vlaminck was born in the heart of
Paris, near Les Halles. His parents were both musicians of talent,
although neither of them was well-known. Vlaminck began to draw while in
elementary school and neglected his studies for his sketches. However,
as Maurice Vlaminck grew up he showed talent as a violinist and as a
champion bicycle rider, so that he did not decide to become a painter
until 1900 when he met Derain.
Maurice Vlaminck and Andre Derain were good friends and neighbors in France; they made a spectacular pair. Both were huge and both wore conspicuous clothes. One of Vlaminck's favorite items of costume was a painted wooden necktie. They lived and worked in a seaside suburb called Chatou and invited Matisse to visit them there. The sight of Vincent van Gogh's paintings further stimulated Vlaminck, and he began to paint as a Fauve, without any academic studies. Maurice Vlaminck was about twenty-five at the time; he was already married and had two children. Maurice Vlaminck took life a great deal more lightly than the others; he had no money. He was a red-headed colossus, well known as a boxer and a wrestler. Maurice Vlaminck supported himself and his family partly as a violinist, sometimes posing as a gypsy, and by writing pulp novels that skirted the boundaries of pornography. Maurice Vlaminck was a blatant self-promoter who painted in furious bursts, often spreading the oil paint on directly from the tubes. By the age of thirty, Maurice Vlaminck had attained heights he never regained in a long lifetime of painting.
Two of Vlaminck's groundbreaking paintings, "Sur le zinc" (At the Bar) (shown above)and "L'homme a la pipe" (Man Smoking a Pipe) were painted in 1900. In about 1909, Vlaminck experimented with Cubist constructions in his landscapes and still lifes and showed a preference in his palette for the pure whites and keep blues that are often found in his later works. In 1911, Vlaminck traveled to London and painted by the Thames.
In 1913, Maurice Vlaminck painted again with Derain in Marseille and Martigues. In World War I Maurice Vlaminck was stationed in Paris, and began writing poetry. Eventually he settled in the northwestern suburbs of Paris. Maurice Vlaminck married his second wife, Berthe Combes, with whom he had two daughters. For the next few years Vlaminck lived in or near Chatou (the inspiration for his painting houses at Chatou), painting and exhibiting alongside Derain, Matisse, and other Fauvist painters. At this time his exuberant paint application and vibrant use of color displayed the influence of Vincent van Gogh. "Sur le Zinc" called to mind the work of Toulouse-Lautrec and his portrayals of prostitutes and solitary drinkers, but does not attempt to probe the sitter's psychology,a break with the century-old European tradition of individualized portraiture.
In Maurice de Vlaminck's landscape paintings he ignored the details, with the landscape becoming a mere excuse to express mood through violent color and brushwork. An example is Sous bois, painted in 1904. The following year, Maurice Vlaminck began to experiment with "deconstruction," turning the physical world into dabs and streaks of color that convey a sense of motion. His paintings "Le Pont de Chatou" (The Chatou Bridge), "Les Ramasseurs de pommes de terre" (The Potato Pickers) (shown below), "La Seine a Chatou" (The River Seine at Chatou) (shown here) and "Le Verge"r (The Orchard) exemplify this trend.
After 1915, Vlaminck's palette became cooler and at the same time more dramatic in intensity as he began to paint strong, vital, stormy landscapes, overcast skies, lonely villages, and more earthy, humanitarian still lifes in a more solid but still turbulent style. Maurice Vlaminck remained resolutely apart from all trends of contemporary art after his brief adventure into Cubism and found in his return to nature a realistic outlet for his early Fauve passion. After a brief skirmish with Cubism, Vlaminck began striking out against the current trend.
From 1925 Maurice Vlaminck traveled throughout France, but continued to paint primarily along the Seine, near Paris. In 1935, Maurice de Vlaminck retired to a large farm, La TourilliËre, near Beauce. Here Maurice Vlaminck occupied himself with agriculture, as had his Flemish ancestors, and continued to paint deeply felt still life's and sensitive landscapes that show an almost religious love of nature, the land, and its products. The dozens of landscapes, golden wheat fields and chilly, wind-swept winter scenes that Vlaminck painted here earned him the title "poet of stormy skies".
Maurice de Vlaminck is best known today for his Fauvism period, a span that lasted about seven years. Vlaminck's later work, which was 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, Vlaminck produced some fine lithographs, etchings and woodcuts, and authored and illustrated a number of books.