Skip to content

Vauxcelles, Louis

    Full Name: Vauxcelles, Louis

    Other Names:

    • Louis Vauxcelles

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 01 January 1870

    Date Died: 1943

    Place Born: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): Cubist, Fauvre, Modern (style or period), and twentieth century (dates CE)

    Career(s): art critics


    Art critic of the early 20th-century modernist art movements; coiner of the terms “Fauvism” and “Cubism”. Vauxcelles started writing art criticism in the 1890s, rising to a major figure (and today, documenter) of the art world in Paris. In a 1905 review, Vauxcelles disparagingly described the proto-expressionist French painters around Andre Darin and Henri Matisse, whose work was exhibited among classical sculpture, as “Donatello parmi les fauves” (a Donatello amongst wild beasts). The term “les fauves” (wild beasts) became the epithet for the movement. Likewise in 1908 he described the work of Braque as “bizarre cubiques” (bizarre cubes). Vauxcelles’ description of their work as ‘full of little cubes’, again became the moniker for the style, though neither Braque nor Picasso adopted it. Conscious of his fame in naming French art styles, he mocking ascribed the early work of Ferdinand Léger, who employed a variation of Cubism in his work, as “Tubism” in 1911. His criticism for the journals Excelsior, Gil Blas and Le Carnet de la semaine (under the name Pinturicchio), made him among the most popular critics by 1914. He was appointed to the executive committee of the Salon d’Automne. In 1916 he founded his own review, Le Carnet des artistes, backed by Albert Dubarry, the publisher of Le Carnet de la semaine in which Vauxcelles continued to write. He launched a higher-profile periodical, L’Amour de l’art, editing it between 1920 and 1923. When Braque returned to a style of clearer representation after World War I, one that diverged more from Picasso, Vauxcelles conceded that the artist’s work deserved a place in the tradition of French painting. Despite his derision of Cubism and related avant-garde styles, Vauxcelles stance as an anti-academic painting and sculpture never wavered. Throughout his writing, Vauxcelles valued modern artists who demonstrated individualist, ‘progressivist’ traditions in art, contrasting academic painters with their rules and traditions. He chided the emergence of Cubism as a return to a theoretic, rule-bound art as French academic painting was. He had no appreciation for strongly-abstract art. Among his other truisms, Vauxcelles observed that “art critics age badly.”

    Selected Bibliography

    and Fontainas, André, and Gromort, Georges, and Mourey, Gabriel. Histoire générale de l’art français de la Révolution à nos jours. 3 vols. Paris: Librairie de France, 1923-25,


    Gee, Malcolm. Dealers, Critics and Collectors of Modern Painting. New York: Garland Pub., 1981, pp. 101-53; Green, Christopher. Cubism and its Enemies: Modern Movements and Reaction in French art, 1916-1928. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987, pp. 121-218

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Vauxcelles, Louis." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: