Term Paper: Art as Political Statement

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[. . .] As such, Marc's animals appeared in non-naturalistic colors, which has symbolist qualities such as blue for masculinity, while red and yellow stood for femininity.

To depict yellow as a joyous color, Marc created The Yellow Cow in order to show the happiness and the female depicted by the cow leaping through the air (Pioch).

As the political situation however worsened with the advent of the First World War, Marc's paintings reflected his fears. His animals became smaller and spread out, losing their qualities of calm and contemplation. In this way Marc makes the statement that even the artist as expressionist is not completely immune from the outside influence of fear and doubt (Pioch).


Fauvism was a mostly Parisian movement that did not last long, but had an intense influence on the art world. The use of color by fauvists is reminiscent of Marc's, as non-natural colors are used to depict emotion and style. Color was used as more than a mere means of shaping forms on canvass, however. Instead, colors were used in an almost barbaric manner, not entirely giving from to forms, but rather expressing the emotions of the painters. The style was rougher than that of Marc, almost to the extent where it was clumsy. Indeed, for artists such as Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, color became a force in itself, rather than a secondary form of shaping outlines. Color was thus used as an expression not only of an idea, but of the very emotion behind the idea. The result was complete artistic freedom in terms of using color. This was reflective of the variety of emotions experienced during this time in France. Artists turned away from the external situation towards the inner world, and used their emotions to make political comments ("Andre Derain").

Much like Marc above, for example, Vlaminck used color to depict his contrasting moods. An example is "The River" where the surface appears at peace, but the viewer is aware of an intense inner storm brewing. Derain's Charing Cross Bridge also depicted primitivism through the use of natural images in his paintings. The color and shape used in these works show a turning away from political turmoil and trouble to a wished for situation that may never depict itself. In this way the surface calm of "The River" represents the peace that is wished for, but that does not exist without the certainty of further trouble to come (Hughes).

Henri Matisse was the leader of the Fauvist movement, pursuing the expressive power of color throughout his career. His influences were derived from the French Riviera, Nice and Vence. Again, Matisse seemed to turn inward, away from the political situation of his time to focus on himself in the depiction of his work. Matisse then simply concentrated on the glory of the colors around himself to create his sensual works. When duodenal cancer for example permanently place him in a wheelchair during the year 1941, he finished the Chapel of the rosary in Vence, depicting a magnificent interplay of colors (Hughes).

While the above may appear decidedly unpolitical, political expression could be seen in these works. The point of fauvism seems to be a turning away from what is unfair and sorrowful in the world, and rather to focus on what is pleasant, sensual and beautiful. The political message is then to as far as possible enjoy what life provides by means of the senses, and to avoid what is ugly and sad. A case in point appears to be Matisse himself (Hughes).

According to fauvism then, politics and all other aspects of life that are not beautiful, should be dealt with by turning towards the beautiful in favor of the undesirable elements of life. Matisse thus created a dream world, or a paradise, into which his viewers can be drawn.


Andre Derain." 2004. http://psych.fullerton.edu/psych466/psantiago/derbio.html

Hughes, Robert. "Henri Matisse." 2004. http://www.artchive.com/artchive/M/matisse.html

Pioch, Nicolas. "Expressionism." 2002. http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/glo/expressionism/

Pioch, Nicolas. "Henri Matisse." 2004. http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/glo/expressionism/Matisse

Shipe, Timothy. "George Grosz." 2002 http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/dada/grosz.html [END OF PREVIEW]

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