Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dongen, Kees van

Portrait of Madame Marie-Therese Raulet
oil on canvas
100 x 81 cm
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Caen, France

"Painting is the most beautiful of lies." "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." (Kees Van Dongen)

Cornelis Theodorus Maria van Dongen (1877 - 1968), usually known as Kees van Dongen, was a Dutch painter and one of the Fauves. He made oilpaintings, watercolors, pastels, drawings and lithographs. He gained a reputation for his sensuous, at times garish, portraits.

Dongen was born in Delfshaven, then on the outskirts, and today a borough, of Rotterdam, Netherlands. In 1892, at age 16, he started his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam. During this period he frequented a seaport area, where he drew scenes of sailors and prostitutes. In 1897, he lived in Paris for several months and again returned to Paris in 1899. He lived in the Montmartre district and worked as a house painter and illustrator for satirical magazines. He met Henri Matisse in his first years in Paris, and adopted the Fauve style of painting in bright colors and broad strokes. His paintings of women, dancers and nudes are composed of rich, vivid colors and bold outlines. The simplified forms and emotional distortions were used to express his passionate involvement with contemporary life in Paris. In 1908, Dongen was invited to join the German Expressionist group, and his Expressionist portraits were extremely popular throughout continental Europe through the war years. After 1918, Dongen became a popular society painter. His style became simpler and more realistic, although he continued to use vivid colors in his portraits.

In 1926, Dongen was awarded the Legion of Honour and in 1927 the Order of the Crown of Belgium. In 1929, he received French nationality, lived mainly in Paris but frequented Monaco where he lived later in life and where he died. He died in 1968 at the age of 91. In the waning years of his life, he was honored by frequent museum retrospectives. Until almost the end he sustained what Apollinaire called his blend of "opium, ambergris, and eroticism, " the fluid touch and exuberance that were his trademark whether he painted landscapes, nudes, or portraits. His work was exhibited many times all over the world. Many of his paintings are in various museums world wide or privately owned.