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Differences Between Fauvism & Cubism

Pablo Picasso's
Oli Scarff/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Fauvism and cubism were styles of art that became popular during the first decade of the 20th century. The word “fauvism” comes from the French word “fauve,” which means wild animals. This refers to the wild colors and compositions of the fauvist painters. Cubism, as its name implies, refers to the geometric shapes that the cubists favored.


The fauvists used strong colors to evoke an emotional reaction in the viewer. The colors were often quite different from the colors that the objects actually were in reality. The cubists, on the other hand, typically used bland colors. Picasso, for example, painted his cubist masterpiece “Guernica” in black, white and shades of gray, while Matisse’s “The Woman with the Hat” depicted a woman with a multicolored face.


With cubism, everything was often reduced to its geometric form. Because viewers could see objects from multiple viewpoints, artists could make 2-D works of art appear to be 3-D. Fauvism was very different in that the fauvist artists painted designs in a simplified style. Although not highly realistic, fauvist objects appeared much more realistic than items painted in the cubist style.

Viewpoints and Emotions

With cubism, the artists could show more than one aspect of a subject at a time. For example, Picasso created many paintings of women using this technique. Using a geometric style, he would paint the same face with multiple mouths or noses and more than two eyes in order to depict it from more than one viewpoint. This way, his subjects could show multiple emotions at once. The emotions of the subjects were central to the paintings. Fauvist painters could not do this. Instead, their subjects displayed basic emotions. The subjects themselves were not meant to distract from the explosive colors and the shapes and forms.

Control and Chaos

Cubism was tightly controlled. Every line and shape was precisely rendered. Color was kept in check. Fauvism, on the other hand, was unrestrained, freely expressive and somewhat chaotic. Fauvist lines were loose and minimal -- sometimes just enough to suggest an object. In contrast, the artists drew cubist lines meticulously in accordance with the rules of geometry.

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