Lot 47
  • 47

Kees van Dongen

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
1,762,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Kees van Dongen
  • Fatma
  • Signed Van Dongen (lower left); titled on the stretcher
  • Oil on canvas


Samy Chalom, Paris

Waddington Galleries, London

Mary & George Bloch

Waddington Galleries, London (acquired from the above)

Acquired from the above in March 2000


Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne & Rotterdam, Boymans-van Beuningen, Van Dongen, 1967-68, no. 81

Hong Kong Museum of Art, Modern Art from the Collection of Mary and George Bloch, 1987, no. 11, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, The Cities Collect, 2000-01, no. 216

Catalogue Note

Although he made a career for himself depicting the women of the demi and beau mondes, it is this enchanting depiction of a modest North African woman that exemplifies Van Dongen's reputation as the most successful portrait painter among the Fauves.   The captivating Fatma is the subject of Van Dongen's portrait here, posed conservatively with her hair and shoulders covered in what may have been a hijab.  Van Dongen was not alone in his fascination with 'orientalism,' which had been a popular theme among French artists dating back to the mid-nineteenth century.   Matisse had also made trips to the coastal cities of North Africa around this time, forming his first impressions for the many odalisques that he would later paint after the war.  But it was Van Dongen who reacted immediately to the pungent exoticism of Egypt and Morocco and the warmth, curiosity and sincerity of the people whom he encountered.

Van Dongen painted Fatma at the height of his career, following a string of highly-successful exhibitions at the Kahnweiler, Thannhauser and Bernheim-Jeune galleries in Paris between 1908 and 1910.  Before that, he had established his reputation while exhibiting with the Fauves in 1905 and 1907, and the wildly expressive style that he codified with those artists essentially took hold in his painting for the rest of his career.  For example, the red ornament on the bodice of the figure in this picture exemplifies the stylistic objectives of the movement. "Fauvism," Matisse once joked, "is when there's red in it" (quoted in J. Klein, "Van Dongen, Postmodern Fauve," in Van Dongen, 2008-09, op. cit., p. 221).