Lot 12
  • 12

Kees van Dongen

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Kees van Dongen
  • Le Moulin de la Galette
  • signed van Dongen (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 54.3 by 73.3cm.
  • 21 3/8 by 28 7/8 in.


The collection of the artist (until at least the 1950s)

Private Collection (sold: Sotheby's, London, 30th June 1987, lot 41)

Private Collection, New York (purchased at the above sale. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 3rd May 2011, lot 39)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Paris, Salon des Indépendants, 1906 (in its original format)


Van Dongen. Fauve, anarchiste et mondain (exhibition catalogue), Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 2011, illustrated in colour p. 30

Kees van Dongen (exhibition catalogue), Museu Picasso, Barcelona, 2009, illustrated in colour p. 102

Catalogue Note

Painted in a critical moment of van Dongen’s career, shortly after he had moved to a new studio in Le Bateau-Lavoir, on the same floor where Picasso was installed with Fernande Olivier, Le Moulin de la Galette can be seen as a statement of intent. The subject of the Moulin de la Galette (fig. 3) – or more specifically the dance hall that stood between it and Le Moulin Debray and where in the summer months tables and chairs would be moved outside – had been immortalised in Renoir’s 1876 Impressionist masterpiece (fig. 1). However, where Renoir shows the crowd as they dance and drink under the acacia trees at midday, van Dongen completely reimagines and updates the scene, transforming it into a picture of night time revelry. In its modern subject matter and vigorous use of colour and paint it recalls Picasso’s own depictions of the city’s nightlife (fig. 2).

Le Moulin de la Galette was originally part of one of van Dongen’s most ambitious paintings. Conceived on monumental scale, stretching over two metres and capturing all the swirling energy of that infamous dance floor, the work was the crowning glory of the artist’s ambitious contribution to the Salon des Indépendants in 1906. As Anita Hopmans records, the canvas remained in van Dongen’s possession until at least the 1950s when a sudden resurgence of interest in his early work prompted him to divide the work into six segments and sell them separately (see Kees Van Dongen (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., pp. 31-32). The present work was a key part of the original composition; Van Dongen uses expressive and richly impastoed daubs of paint to capture the frenetic energy of the dance floor and the brilliant brightness of the new electric lights, whilst the lower section details the revellers, two of whom bear the large-eyed gazes that would become characteristic of van Dongen's Fauve portraiture.

Discussing the paintings of this year Jean-Michel Bouhours writes: ‘It’s a period characterised by works of an extraordinary vigour which contributed to his rise to fame in France as well as countries like Germany and Russia. Two of the works, however, stand out as a result of notable characteristics, above all their dimensions, as being exceptional in Van Dongen’s œuvre of this period […]. [Le Moulin de la Galette] is the apotheosis of the language of juxtaposed brushstrokes adopted by Van Dongen two years previously and a transitional work that allowed him to definitively abandon Neo-Impressionism in favour of Fauvism’ (J.-M. Bouhours in ibid., p. 76, translated from Spanish).

This work has been requested for the exhibition Retour de Paris - Dutch Artists Travelling to Paris 1789-1914, to be held at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam from October 2017 to January 2018 and Petit Palais, Paris from February to May 2018.