August 15, 2009

The Art of Kees Van Dongen

Kees Van Dongen (1877 – 1968) was a Dutch painter. He was born in Delfshaven and trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam. In 1897 he moved to Paris where he spent much of the rest of his life. He first worked in a somewhat Impressionist manner, but over time his paintings became increasingly colored and bold. By 1906 he had joined a group of artists called Les Fauves, or “the wild beasts.”


(Van Dongen, Kees. Le Coquelicot "The Corn Poppy,"
c. 1919. oil on canvas.)

Les Fauves, were a short-lived and loose grouping of early 20th century Modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism. This group was lead by the famous Henri Matisse and was later known as Fauvism.


(Van Dongen, Kees. Portrait of a Woman. oil on canvas.)

Two years later Van Dongen briefly joined the German Expressionist group, Die Brüke, or “The Bridge,” whose paintings were also brightly colored and often wrought with emotional intensity.


(Van Dongen, Kees. Woman in Black Hat c. 1908. oil on canvas.)

Woman in Black Hat, was one of several paintings he made of women in hats that are minimal in composition, but are charged with a sensuous undertone. The restricted palette of green, red and black and the simple forms with sparing use of lines make the image intensely focused.


(Van Dongen, Kees. Portrait of a Woman with Long Hair,
c. 1897. oil on canvas.)

Van Dongen painted a number of society portraits and supplemented his income by providing humorous illustrations for the French newspaper Revue Blanche, but the quality of his later works never matched that from his earliest career. He spent many years shifting from one style to the next trying to figure out his true identity. Because of this, there is a great deal of variety in his artwork over the course of his life and his work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy :)

Reference: Farthing, S. 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die. New York: Universe Publishing, 2006.

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