KEES VAN DONGENDutch 1877 - 1968

After exhibiting at the 1905 Salon d’Automne alongside Fauves Henri Matisse, André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, Kees van Dongen combined the lush and sometimes harsh colouring of the group with a playful eroticism, as evidenced by the present work. Completed immediately following his Fauve period, van Dongen’s tongue-in-cheek composition allows the viewer to collude with the artist behind the screen (‘le paravent’); an item that ought to preserve the model’s modesty but instead paradoxically reveals her. The artist’s intimate view combined with his outspoken brushwork gives the work a daring flourish, characteristic of the colour experimentation of the long fin-de-siècle.

The energy and wry humour with which van Dongen depicted the cabaret girls of Paris was widely acknowledged; Matisse recalled how in the early 1900s the proprietor of the Moulin de la Galette in Montmartre used to invite the painters to come and draw. Matisse wrote ‘…van Dongen was prodigious. He ran around after the dancers and drew them at the same time.’ In Le paravent, the figure’s voluptuous curves appear exaggerated against the angular form of the screen. Moreover, a daring red outlines the figure whilst her shadow is cast in a deep, contrasting blue; the work’s eroticism at once belied and strengthened by van Dongen’s resolute sense of mischief.
Provenance:
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (1911)
Sotheby's, New York, 3 November 2005, lot no. 243;
Private collection (acquired from the above sale)

KEES VAN DONGENDutch 1877 - 1968

Born in Delfshaven, Rotterdam, Kees van Dongen studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts there (1892–97), also frequenting the Red Quarter seaport area, where he drew scenes of sailors and prostitutes. Thereafter he lived in Paris for several months, returning again in December 1899. His artistic break-through came with his participation in the 1905 Salon d'Automne alongside the Fauves (the ‘wild beasts’), Henri Matisse, André Derain, Albert Marquet and Maurice de Vlaminck. In 1906 van Dongen moved to lodgings in the Bateau Lavoir at 13 rue Ravignan in Montmartre, where he befriended Picasso and his circle. In addition to selling his paintings, van Dongen also gained an income by selling satirical sketches to the newspaper Revue Blanche. He also organised very successful costume balls, to which people paid admission, to gain extra income. Van Dongen was briefly a member of the German Expressionist group Die Brücke.

After the First World War, under the influence of fashion director Lea Alvin (Jasmy Jacob), van Dongen further developed the lush colours of his Fauvist style. This earned him a solid reputation with the French bourgeoisie and upper classes, where he was in demand for his portraits. His commissions included Louis Barthou, Sacha Guitry, Leopold III of Belgium, Anna de Noailles and Maurice Chevalier.