Les Fauves (the wild beasts) was the nickname given in 1905 to a group of painters led by Henri Matisse. Today, their paintings are among the most popular of all twentieth-century art. Yet when Matisse and his friends – Derain, Vlaminck, Marquet, Dufy and Braque among them – first exhibited their work, the reaction of public and critics was astonishment and often hostility. Using strong, even strident, colours, applied in a manner deriving from Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh, the Fauves took painting back to its basic principles, inspired by primitive art, popular prints and children’s paintings, and paved the way to Cubism. The artists, their work, their relationship, their achievements and the critical and commercial response to their work are all discussed in this absorbing book.