The artist’s handling of paint and employment of colour grants this work an expressive and highly-charged quality. Reflecting his affiliation with the movement of Fauvism which occurred around 1904 when he was engaged with two of its principle exponents, André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, van Dongen retained his love for thickly applied paint and highly saturated hues. Yet this present work denotes the artist’s unique style, as he diverts from the ebullient brightness of Fauvism and explores the effects of a mysterious dark background and use of shading. His omission of the vase from the canvas instils the scene with a pervading sense of energy and elevates the work from an ordinary still life to a thought-provoking image of the avant-garde. The French-Dutch artist had a remarkable ability for taking a traditional subject matter and distilling it to its central elements of colour and energy. So focussed was Van Dongen's obsession with colour, scholar William Steadman has suggested that it held for the artist a symbolic meaning and status (William E. Steadman & Denys Sutton, Cornelius Theodorus Marie Van Dongen, Tuscon, 1971, pp. 20-28).
The present work evokes the colour and expressive line that became the quintessence of his style. Having moved to Paris in 1897, in 1926, the artist was inducted into the French Legion of Honor, and, in 1927, awarded the Order of the Crown of Belgium. Van Dongen’s approach to art earned him international approbation and Bouquet d’hortensias beautifully epitomises the intoxicating painterly intensity with which the artist imbued his still lifes.
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