Details & Cataloguing

Art Impressionniste et Moderne


Kees van Dongen
1877 - 1968
signed Van Dongen (lower right)
oil on canvas
50,8 x 65,6 cm; 20 1/8 x 25 3/4 in.
Painted circa 1950.
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This work will be included in the forthcoming Kees Van Dongen Digital Catalogue Raisonné, being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.


Private collection, Italy
Thence by descent to the present owner in 1999


Louis Chaumeil, Van Dongen, L'Homme et l'artiste, La vie et l'œuvre, Geneva, 1967, no. 14, illustrated pl. 14

Catalogue Note

Peopled with an eclectic and vibrant array of characters, Chanteurs de rue is a superb example of Kees van Dongen’s remarkable talent as painter of figurative scenes. In contrast to the somewhat more conventional society portraits for which the artist became well known, the present work depicts a group of street singers engaged in entertaining a diverse crowd of onlookers. Van Dongen conveys the various different characters of each figure through a myriad of highly animated facial expressions, from the wide-open mouth of the guitar player to the reverently closed eyes of the young woman in red.

Van Dongen started his career as an illustrator in his native Rotterdam but moved to Paris in 1897. It was then that Félix Fénéon introduced him to artists associated with the avant-garde journal La Revue blanche, including Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard. His politically-oriented drawings, executed in a notational style with vibrant colours, anticipated Fauvism. Van Dongen first became more widely known as a painter in 1905 when he showed at the Salon d’Automne alongside Henri Matisse, André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck.

The artists would be dubbed ‘Les Fauves’ for their unstudied handling of paint and daring use of colour. Van Dongen soon achieved critical success, exhibiting with major dealers in Paris including Bernheim-Jeune, Ambroise Vollard, Antoine Druet, and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (who devoted his very first exhibition to Van Dongen). Another influence on Van Dongen’s painting was Pablo Picasso, who knew the artist from their days at the Bateau-Lavoir during the first decade of the 20th century. The present work arguably bears some similarities to Picasso’s early café pictures, completed at the turn of the century in Paris, in both subject matter and technique. Ultimately, in its superbly executed blend of humour and character, Chanteurs de rue stands as a masterful model of Van Dongen’s talent for capturing the irrepressible zeitgeist of Parisian life.

Art Impressionniste et Moderne