Kees van Dongen

Born 1877. Died 1968.
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Kees van Dongen Biography

Dutch-French artist Kees van Dongen was a leading figure of the Fauvist movement in the early decades of the twentieth century, who also briefly showed with the German Expressionist group Die Brücke. He was best known for his sensuous portraits of women using the acidic colors and surprising chromatic juxtapositions of the Fauvist palette, with a loose, gestural handling of paint. He was commercially successful in the later years of his career, producing portraits of women of high society and even celebrities like Brigitte Bardot in the 1950s; however, critics refer to the early years of his career immediately after the turn of the century as the high point of his career, during the height of Fauvism.

Born in 1877 on the outskirts of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Van Dongen studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam under J. Striening and J. G. Heyberg. Upon moving to Paris in 1899, he soon began to frequent the popular gathering spaces of Montmartre, where he met artists Henri Matisse, André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck. He began experimenting with similar bold colors and expressive forms as those of his friends, and showed at the Salon d’Automne alongside fellow Fauvist artists. He supplemented his income with satirical work for La Revue Blanche magazine, where many of his colleagues of the avant-garde in Paris also published. He developed significant patronage from within the French bourgeoisie following the First World War, and consistently secured commissions for portraits within his signature Fauvist style.

Van Dongen was inducted into the French Legion of Honor in 1926, and was awarded the Order of the Crown of Belgium the following year. His works briefly fell out of popularity following the Second World War as a result of his relative acceptance by the Nazis, though connoisseurs and collectors have continued to admire his works well into the twenty-first century. His works can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the National Gallery, Washington, DC, among others.

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