Matisse was the oldest. He was born in 1869. Vlaminck (pronounced Vla-MANK) was born in 1876, while Derain, (pronounced Der-RAN) was the youngest, born in 1880. These three, painting together, evolving together, exhibiting together, were labeled by the French critic, Louis Vauxcelles, as "le Fauves" or Wild Beasts". The reference, of course, was primarily to their colors, and the label, like that of so many art movements, was intended to be derisive. But it was apt. By temperament, in appearance, and in artistic philosophy, these men all had a wild, "beastly" streak. Add to the list the work of Paul Gauguin, who was of course by this time quite dead, and you have a group ready to clobber the artistic sensitivities of every connoisseur and critic on the continent.
Derain's (1905) View of Collioure is typical. At first glance it appears not unlike a tempera painting done by a fairly talented 12-year-old. Its vivid blues, greens, and oranges on a manila-colored ground seem only incidentally to depict a French Riviera seaport. Vlaminck's (1906) Landscape near Chatou, is most like the rhythmic brushwork of Van Gogh but with wilder color than even Derain. Merging a rawness of color with heaving, swirling strokes, Vlaminck's painting style is the most "beastly" of the three. And from the same period, Matisse's The Woman with the Hat shows a similar disregard for observed color, though the painting style seems much more sympathetic to his subject than does any of Vlaminck's distant villages or Derain's turbulent seascapes. One of the most interesting unknowns in all of this is the hypothetical question of what Vincent Van Gogh would have thought of his stylistic descendants. Would he have been appreciative of their daring, color rebellion or as shocked as the rest of Paris at the length these "Wild Beasts" were willing to go to leave their mark on Modern Art?