Louis Vauxcelles, the influential French art critic, proclaimed van Dongen as “the historian of girls of the streets, of the dregs, of all the rabble of corrupt females and their crapulous pimps” (quoted in Gaston Diehl, Van Dongen, Milan, n.d., p. 87), and behind the air of decadence that pervades this work is a streak of Dutch realism that remained ever present in the artist’s work. The sulphurous yellows and lurid greens are hallmarks of his mature paintings, and the troubling sensuality that is already overt in this painting would become even more pronounced. In his prologue to his December 1911 exhibition, van Dongen asserted that “a certain immodesty is truly a virtue, as is the absence of respect for many respectable things” (quoted in ibid., p. 87). This work is underpinned by a strange combination of baudelairism and naïveté that captures both the exotic and the sordid nature of the bohemian world he inhabited.
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