Kees van Dongen
1877-1968 | Dutch
Oil on canvas
Signed "van Dongen" (lower center)
An artist whose career was defined by coloristic expression and unyielding originality, Kees van Dongen and his unique style grabbed the attention of early 20th-century art connoisseurs, ranking him among the leading Modernists of the era. Such expertise is showcased in the present composition, entitled Femme allongée, a painting that epitomizes the artist's intense use of color and dramatic compositional style.
Above all, van Dongen was dedicated to the subject of the modern urban woman, and they remained central to his output throughout his career. He painted everyone from celebrities such as Josephine Baker and Brigitte Bardot to dancers, singers, and prostitutes in Paris' infamous brothels. His portraits of society ladies remain among his most important; as is seen in the present work, he experimented with elongated forms that exaggerated both the elegance and the exoticism of his models.
Painted during an incredibly lucrative time of his career, van Dongen's Femme allongée showcases the richness and intensity of color and composition for which he is renowned. The painting was rendered with a burst of intense, unblended color, layered in such a skillful and stylized manner that the landscape appears to meld into the distant sky. The artist’s daring use of unblended color reflects his early association with the Fauves and the Expressionists, two 20th-century artistic groups that were famed for their bold and even aggressive use of color. Highly stylized, his female subject sprawls across the landscape, casting a deep blue shadow that adds further drama to the scene. As a whole, it is exemplary of the master's highly original and coveted style.
Van Dongen received his early artistic training at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam. He moved to Paris in the early 1900s, settling in the Montmartre district, then the artistic hub of the city. There van Dongen found himself immersed in an environment that stimulated his creativity and inspired him to begin exhibiting his paintings. Even in his earliest shows his works were showcased alongside the artistic masters of the day. In fact, during the 1905 Salon d'Automne van Dongen's paintings were hung in the same gallery as those of 21st-century revolutionary Henri Matisse.
To have his works displayed near those of Matisse was an honor for the young artist, but this exhibition bore even greater significance. It was from this pivotal showing that Fauvism, the "wild beasts" of the early 1900s, was born. Matisse had pioneered the Fauvist technique, exemplified by intensely expressive colors and intense brushwork. Van Dongen's early paintings bore the hallmarks of this explosive expression, ushering him into the circle of the leading avant-garde painters of the day, including Maurice de Vlaminck, Edouard Vuillard and Pablo Picasso.
The onset of World War I proved detrimental to artists across Europe, and van Dongen was no exception. The years immediately following the war, however, were some of his most prolific and profitable. In addition to painting still lifes, van Dongen also accepted portrait commissions. By the 1920s, his reputation as a preeminent portraitist among the most elite echelons of Parisian society garnered him extraordinarily high wages for his works. These commissions not only granted the artist financial security, but they also allowed him the freedom to devote significant time to his unending quest for originality.
Works like Femme allongée were not only painted during the peak of van Dongen's career, but they are also some of the most desirable works by the artist available today. Many are sequestered in museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Museum of Modern Art (New York), Art Institute of Chicago and the State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg), among others.
This important work will be included in the forthcoming Van Dongen Digital Catalogue Raisonné currently being prepared by the Wildenstein Plattner Institute.
Canvas: 29 1/8" high by 36 5/8" wide
Frame: 36 3/8" high x 43 3/4" wide
Kees van Dongen, Frans Buffa & Zonen, Amsterdam, December 12, 1931 - January 10, 1932, no. 6
Zomer-Tentoonstelling van oude en modern kunst, Pulchri Studio, Le Haye, August 1942, no. 51
Kees van Dongen, Museum Boymans, Rotterdam, May 28 - July 10, 1949, no. 62
All Eyes on Kees van Dongen, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, September 18, 2010 - January 23, 2011, no. 79
Van Dongen: fauve, Anarchiste et Mondain, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, March 25 - July 17, 2011, no. 98
Legacy of a Modern Master, Findlay Galleries, Palm Beach, November 26, 2016 - January 6, 2017
Van Dongen & Le Bateau-Lavoir, Musée de Montmartre, Paris, February 16 - August 26, 2018, no. 62
"Kees van Dongen," Elsevier's Geillustreered Maandschrift, 34, vol. 67, by L. Faust, p. 227
Van Dongen: Fauve, Anarchiste et Mondain, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 2011, by A. Hopmans, p. 98 (illustrated)
Van Dongen: Fauve, Anarchiste et Mondain, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 2011, ed. by C. Pommereau, pp. 58-59 (illustrated)
Van Dongen & Le Bateau-Lavoir, Musée de Montmartre, Paris, 2018, by A. Hopmans, p. 151 (illustrated)
Van Marle & Bignell, The Hague, May 25-26, 1943, no. 46
H.A.J. Stenger, The Hague
Kunstveilingen, S.J. Mak Van Waay, Amsterdam, January 17, 1950, no. 153
J.M.T. Gozé, Maastricht, 1952
Kunstveilingen, S.J. Mak Van Waay, Amsterdam, December 17, 1973, no. 69
Kunstveilingen, S.J. Mak Van Waay, Amsterdam, October 21, 1974, no. 250
J.M.T. Gozé, Maastricht
Private collection, Netherlands, 1996
M.S. Rau, New Orleans