“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.
Close to Dutch anarchist circles at the end of the 19th century, he played a major role in the emergence of Fauvism, but also assumed during the interwar period to evolve in a bourgeois and prosperous environment in the heart of the capital. French. A subject has never disappeared in his work: the female nude. The painter seems to have devoted a real cult to him. As early as 1896, in Rotterdam, the young artist drew prostitutes. Arriving in Paris in 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. 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. 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.
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.
– Private collection, France
– Private collection, The Netherlands.
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 that our work is included in his archives.