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Van Dongen in his studio

Van Dongen in his studio

You gotta love a painter who works in a studio like the one in the picture. Of course this must be a set up but his sense of style and humor comes off well. His work is rich in color, texture and very contemporary feeling.

Van Dongen (26 January 1877 – 28 May 1968), was a Dutch painter and one of the Fauves. He gained a reputation for his sensuous, at times garish, portraits.

Kees van Dongen was born in Delfshaven, then on the outskirts, and today a borough, of Rotterdam. In 1892, at age 16, Kees van Dongen started his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam. During this period from 1892 to 1897, van Dongen frequented the Red Quarter seaport area, where he drew scenes of sailors and prostitutes.

In 1897 he lived in Paris for several months. In December 1899 he returned to Paris to join Augusta Preitinger (“Guus”), whom he had met at the Academy. They married on 11 July 1901 (they divorced in 1921). He began to exhibit in Paris, and participated in the controversial 1905 exhibition Salon d’Automne,[1] in a room featuring Henri Matisse amongst others. The bright colours of this group of artists led to them being called Fauves (‘Wild Beasts’). He was also briefly a member of the German Expressionist group Die Brücke.

In these years he was part of an avant-garde wave of painters—Maurice de VlaminckOthon FrieszHenri RousseauRobert DelaunayAlbert MarquetÉdouard Vuillard—who aspired to a renewal of painting that was stuck in neo-impressionism.

In 1906 the couple moved to the Bateau Lavoir at 13 rue Ravignan, where they were friends with the circle surrounding Pablo Picasso and his girlfriend Fernande Olivier.

In addition to selling his paintings, van Dongen also gained an income by selling satirical sketches to the newspaper ‘Revue Blanche‘ and organising very successful costume balls in Montparnasse to gain extra income.In the Plaza, or Women at the Balustradeby Kees van Dongen, 1911

Van Dongen painting of Bridget Bardot

Van Dongen painting of Bridget Bardot

Under the influence of Jasmy Jacob, among others, Kees van Dongen developed the lush colours of his Fauvist style. This earned him a solid reputation with the French bourgeoisie and a profitable lifestyle. As a fashionable portraitist, his subjects included ArlettyLouis BarthouSacha GuitryLeopold III of BelgiumAnna de Noailles and Maurice Chevalier. With a playful cynicism he remarked of his popularity as a portraitist with high society women, “The essential thing is to elongate the women and especially to make them slim. After that it just remains to enlarge their jewels. They are ravished.” This remark is reminiscent of another of his sayings: “Painting is the most beautiful of lies”.

In 1926 he was awarded the Legion of Honour and in 1927 the Order of the Crown of Belgium. In 1929 he received French nationality and two of his works were admitted to the Musée du Luxembourg.

The social and commercial appeal of his later work (such as a 1959 portrait of Brigitte Bardot with her hair tousled, in a little black dress) did not match the artistic promise or the bohemian eroticism of his earlier years.

Kees van Dongen died in his home in Monte Carlo in 1968.