Watercolor on paper: 60 x 48 cm
Signed, dedicated lower left:
‘To my friend Pierre Duplessis the knight without fear and without reproach’
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“To my friend Pierre Duplessis the knight without fear and without reproach”, wrote Kees Van Dongen at the bottom of the drawing which will be accompanied here by a certificate from the David Garnier gallery dated February 16, 1966. Close to the painter, this dandy was a regular at the famous balls organized in Paris by Van Dongen in the 1920s. Sitting nonchalantly on her 18th century sofa, a woman simply dressed in her pumps displays her nudity in this very studied composition, with a beautiful sinuous effect between the movement of the model’s arms and that of the seat. She looks away, sketches a disdainful pout, as if making fun of our presence, keeping her distance. Kees Van Dongen always surprises. His independent and provocative personality allows him to create an always avant-garde painting.
In our work, the model poses, conscious of her act, and yet seems so detached from her environment by this distant gaze turned outside the composition. A pout on the mouth seems to be born. A zest of scandal, the model is naked, but has kept her pumps. The rhythm of the curves given by the artist to the entire composition is played between the woman’s body and the armrest of the sofa to accentuate its sensuality.
Kees van Dongen was a Dutch-born French painter and printmaker who was one of the leading Fauvists and was particularly renowned for his stylized, sensuously rendered portraits of women.
Van Dongen had artistic leanings early in his youth. He attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam, Neth., and he moved to Paris at age 20. Arriving in Paris around 1900, he borrowed from a Degas or a Toulouse-Lautrec the excessively made-up female figures, which he treated in Fauvist fashion with his strong outlines, his bright colors and his simplified drawing.
Having made the acquaintance of Henri Matisse, van Dongen participated in the famous Salon d’Automne of 1905, at which the Fauve (“Wild Beast”) group was given its epithet due to the artists’ aggressive, emotive brushwork and pure, unblended colours. His reputation grew when he was contracted by Pablo Picasso’s dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler in 1907. Van Dongen exhibited with the German Expressionist group Die Brücke (“The Bridge”) in 1908, but he remained committed to Fauvism.
At the Salon d’Automne of 1913, he exhibited a painting showing his wife Guus just dressed in a shawl and stockings: deemed obscene by the prefect of police, it was removed from the exhibition.
Six years later, the three female portraits he sent to the same event marked his stylistic evolution. His models feature slender bodies, small heads and large eyes. A new vision, eminently modern and independent of any movement. Van Dongen’s candid, colourful portrait style was immensely fashionable by the end of World War I, and thereafter it remained his main focus. The figure of a glamorous woman with large eyes and red lips became his archetype.
During his so-called “cocktail” period, because of the parties and the many meetings from 1916 to 1931, he became one of the outstanding figures of the Montparnasse district and painted many nudes of emancipated women from high society with sophisticated eroticism. …sometimes still considered scandalous.
The French government honored him with the title of a Knight of the French Legion of Honour, in 1926. The following year he received the title of the Order of the Crown of Belgium. The artist was honored for his invaluable contribution to French art society. Shortly after, the government offered him the French citizenship.
His artwork can be found in important collections and museums worldwide, such as the Museum of Modern Arts (MOMA) New York, Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, Hermitage in Sint-Petersburg, Centre Pompidou in Paris and many more.
A certificate from Mr. David, David and Garnier gallery, Paris, dated February 16, 1966, is attached. We would like to also thank Mr. Chalom des Cordes who confirms in an email that our work is included in his archives on 17th of June 2022.