Kees van Dongen

Born in 1877, the painter Kees van Dongen was a leading figure of the avantgarde. He is best known for his intense, sensual portraits of women rendered in almost Day-Glo colours. At times aligned with Fauvism, the French movement championed by Henri Matisse, Van Dongen nevertheless developed his own idiom that was rooted in his own personal mythology.

Van Dongen grew up in Rotterdam in a bourgeois household. At 16, he enrolled full-time at the city’s Akademie voor Beeldende Kunsten, where he was taught in the naturalistic style favoured by the Academy. It was during this period that Van Dongen first began to paint Rotterdam’s prostitutes living in the Red Light District, a subject to which he would return throughout his career.

After completing his studies, Van Dongen moved to Paris, specifically Montmartre, then the centre of the avantgarde. His paintings dating from this period evince the intensity of his experimentation, and Van Dongen explored Impressionistic, Fauvist and Expressionistic styles.

It was his association with Fauvism that had the most profound impact upon Van Dongen’s bourgeoning practice. Instead of a neutral palette, he began to use bright, daring tonalities, electric yellows, garish reds and absinthe greens. These exaggerated juxtapositions, employed in his depictions of prostitutes, brought the artist fame. He embarked upon a series of trips, first in Europe, and then later to Morocco and Egypt. These trips to North Africa profoundly influenced his visual vocabulary, inspiring the artist to incorporate more reds and to embrace more Orientalising imagery.

During the 1920s, Van Dongen began to associate with Paris’s beau monde and plunged wholeheartedly into their decadent world. He cultivated friendships with the eras leading couturiers, including Paul Poiret, who became both his friend and patron. Seeking to establish himself within this world, Van Dongen threw lavish parties at his home and pursued the diversions of the Paris’ wealthy elite: vacations along the French Riviera, balls in Venice and weekends spent at the fashionable seaside resorts of Normandy.

Alongside his portraits of aristocrats, actresses and elegant society ladies, Van Dongen painted the casinos, beaches and hotels that so enchanted the upper class. Throughout all, his colour palette remained dramatic and bold, what the poet Guillaume Apollinaire called ‘an intoxication, a dazzle,’ and he remained devoted to his principal subject: that of the woman.

Following World War II, Van Dongen moved to Monaco. He died in 1968 at his home in Monte Carlo.

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Anita en almée

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

L'actrice Lili Damita

KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)

Le Moulin de la Galette

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

La cuirasse d'or

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Les escarpins mauves

Kees Van Dongen (1877-1968)

Venise no. II, le manteau de cygne

KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)

Nuages, ou Guus Van Dongen et sa Fille Dolly portées aux Nues

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Thé dans mon atelier

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

La femme au collier vert

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Grand nu (Zita)

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Femme en bleu au collier rouge

Kees Van Dongen (1877-1968)

Femme au chapeau fleuri

Kees van Dongen (1887-1968)

Le lévrier bleu (Loyse Dumarest)

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

La danse de Carpeaux (Le bal masqué à l'Opéra)

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Fillette au bois, Le petit cheval rose

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Femme aux deux colliers

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Les deux Parisiennes (Le sentier de la vertu)

KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)

Trinidad Fernandez

Kees Van Dongen (1877-1968)

Anita aux fleurs

Kees Van Dongen (1877-1968)

Portrait de femme

KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)

Moi et la femme

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

La femme au collant vert

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Egyptienne au collier de perles

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

La blouse noire

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Les Salons du Casino de Deauville, Le Privé

KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)

Portrait de femme

Kees Van Dongen (1877-1968)

Portrait de Mme Jasmy

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Promenade à cheval

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

La plage de Deauville

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

La Femme aux colonnes ou Nu aux colonnes ou Nu à la rose

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Portrait de Mademoiselle Erna Carise

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Espagnole à la mantille

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Cannes, la femme au chien

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

L'élégante au chapeau

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Femme à la blouse blanche

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Le Sentier de la vertu

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

La baie d'Antibes

KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)

La femme au foulard

KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)

La Porte Dauphine