Executed circa 1908.
To be included in the forthcoming Kees van Dongen Catalogue raisonné being prepared by Jacques-Chalom des Cordes under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Institute.
Marie-Claire van Dongen, France (the artist's wife)
Orientalist themes dominated van Dongen's work throughout his Fauve period providing an exoticism and intensity that perfectly suited the artist's temperament, as illustrated in the present work. In his predilection for the theme, van Dongen followed a long tradition of Orientalism in French art from Delacroix and Ingres to Matisse. Van Dongen's particular achievement, as exemplified in Anita, was to achieve a synthesis of the brilliant and pure chromatic vision of the Fauves with a great sense of movement and compositional audacity.
While living at the Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre, van Dongen frequented the bals musettes and cabarets of the area, seeking out models for his paintings, and became one of the leading figures in bohemian circles. At this time van Dongen made a series of paintings using the model Anita la Bohémienne, a dancer he found at a club in Pigalle. The sensual dancer became the subject of some of van Dongen's most emotionally charged, energetic and erotic paintings, such as La Belle Fatima et sa troupe (fig. I).
Discussing van Dongen's work of this period, Marcel Giry wrote: 'Numerous models came to his studio in rue Lamarck including Anita la Bohémienne, who was a dancer at a dive in Pigalle. ... we are struck by the extraordinary chromatic subtlety which goes far beyond Van Dongen's earlier accomplishments... The determination to emphasise the plastic values of the modeling is the second characteristic of these works which extol Anita's sensual beauty... "I exteriorise my desires" he [Van Dongen] said, "by expressing them in pictures. I love anything that glitters, precious stones that sparkle, fabrics that shimmer, beautiful women who arouse carnal desire... Painting lets me possess all this most fully" (Marcel Giry, Fauvism, Fribourg, 1981, pp. 224-26).
FIG. I, Kees van Dongen, La Belle Fatima et sa troupe, circa 1905-07, oil on canvas (sold: Sotheby's, New York, 4th November 2004, lot 20)
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