An important member of the group of painters known as the Fauves, Kees van Dongen (1877 – 1968) was born in Rotterdam and became a French citizen in 1929. He studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam before moving to Paris in the late 1890s where he worked initially as an illustrator for a number of periodicals. His early paintings displayed the influence of his countryman Rembrandt as well as that of the Impressionists, but in the early 1900s his works began to feature a brighter palette of more vivid colors. In 1905, van Dongen participated in the famous Salon d’Automne exhibition in Paris which contained the works that critics would come to call Fauvism. Although he also exhibited with the German Expressionist group Die Brücke in 1908, van Dongen continued to paint in the style of Fauvism until 1912.

Van Dongen’s works include striking seascapes and cityscapes of Paris but his most characteristic works feature women, often depicted in an erotic manner with sensuous curving lines, energetic brushwork, and bold colors. Before World War I, van Dongen’s paintings of women often featured dancers, circus performers, and prostitutes. After the war, portraiture became his main focus, and he is perhaps best known for his stylized, candid portraits of the French elite of the era.

In addition to his paintings, van Dongen also created many graphic works. Early on van Dongen experimented with the pochoir process for creating his book illustrations. One example of this is the 1925 edition of the controversial novel La Garçonne by Victor Margueritte for which van Dongen provided twenty-eight sophisticated pochoirs. Later in his career he favored lithography as this printmaking technique was particularly suited to the fluid lines of his style. Notable graphic works by van Dongen include the portfolio Femmes (1927), comprising six lithographs after his drawings of women’s faces, Les Fleurs du Mal (1947) etchings printed at Atelier Commelynck accompanying the controversial poems of Charles Baudelaire, and the book Le Revolte des Anges (1951), featuring fifty-eight color lithographs accompanying the text by Anatole France. Over the course of his career, van Dongen contributed to roughly 25 books.

 

Books by Kees van Dongen available from Boreas Fine Art:

[ Van Dongen, Kees ] Baudelaire, Charles. Les Fleurs du Mal. Paris-Bievres: [ Pierre de Tartas. ] 1947.

 

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