Whereas the functional aspect of furniture is as important as its form, the function of art is to reflect the world back to us, to inspire and to delight.

Each of us gravitate towards a different school of art. For those of us working in interior design, the Fauves (‘Wild Beasts’) used colour in a way which is boldly inspirational – an explosion of paint across the canvas, often used in unexpected ways.

An art movement in the early 20th century, Fauvism was inspired by the teachings of Gustave Moreau, who was a Symbolist artist and a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. One of his key messages was about the expressive powers of colour. One of his students was Henri Matisse, who became a pioneer of Fauvism along with André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck.

André Derain, Charing Cross Bridge, London – 1906

The Fauvists exhibited for the first time at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in 1905. The Salon, which began in 1903, is still held every October and is an important platform for emerging artists, who have included such luminaries as Matisse and Picasso.

The bright colours and audacious brushstrokes were juxtaposed against more traditional works, leading one art critic to describe the Fauvist works surrounded by Renaissance sculptures as ‘Donatello chez les fauve’, or ‘Donatello among the wild beasts’. Although not meant well at the time, the term was embraced by the artists.

“We were always intoxicated with color, with words that speak of color, and with the sun that makes colors live.” André Derain

How the Fauves Used Colour

While also known for their bright use of colour and light, the Impressionist school that came before the Fauves used a purer approach which was softer and more blended.

One of the most distinctive aspects of Fauvism is how they used colour expressively and arbitrarily rather than with scientific intent.

“When I put down a green, it doesn’t mean grass; and when I put down a blue, it doesn’t mean the sky.” Henri Matisse

Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life), Henri Matisse – 1905

Brushstrokes are bold and deft, almost aggressive. Primitivism is another theme of Fauvism; an appreciation of African and Oceanic artistic traditions which were regarded as more authentic than European.

Applying Fauvism in Interior Design

Materials and Colours from the ‘Belonging’ trend, as forecast by Scarlet Opus for 2021.

After an ‘unprecedented’ year, it’s time channel your inner ‘Wild Beast’ and use colour unapologetically and unexpectedly in your interior design, with a textured and outward-looking approach to textiles and materials.

At last year’s virtual Decor + Design, Trend Futurist Victoria Redshaw forecast four major trends for 2021, which included the ‘Belonging’ trend. It supports local artisans, with a focus on the social impact of design and an emphasis on cultural exchange (rather than misappropriation). Like the Fauves, the colour palette is bold and brash, with shaggy textiles and weaves.

Or be inspired by one of our favourite British designers, Kit Kemp, who also spoke as part of the virtual Australian House & Garden International Seminar Series in 2020. Kemp is known for her brilliant, unexpected use of colours and arts and crafts from around the globe.

Kit Kemp Design at Bergdorf Goodman, New York. Image: The Australian

Plus be sure to attend the 18th edition of Decor + Design and the Australian International Furniture Fair, our homegrown platform for design inspiration. See work from emerging designers at the VIVID Design Awards installation, plus hundreds of exhibitors from across indoor and outdoor furniture, soft furnishings, lighting, art and textiles.

Entry to the exhibition is free but limited to design trade visitors. Register now and plan your trip to Melbourne Exhibition Centre this July!