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Fauve painters “discovered” African and Oceanic sculpture beginning in 1905. From that time, Vlaminck first collected African art; Derain studied Oceanic works at the British Museum in spring 1906; and Matisse struggled to paint a Kongo-Vili statuette he purchased in fall 1906. Fauve interests in shallow-relief, relatively naturalistic, and surface-ornamented sculptural works suggest conformity with turn-of-the-century artistic and scientific ideas conflating heterogeneous strains of so-called “primitive” material culture. Nevertheless, the dominant conceptual framework of “primitivism” has tended to limit art-historical understandings of external formal influences on modernism, which can be gleaned here by investigating the particular objects the Fauves appropriated.


This article was originally published in The Art Bulletin.

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