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Jean-Gabriel Domergue (1889-1962)

La Danseuse Diane Belli

Jean-Gabriel Domergue (1889-1962)
La Danseuse Diane Belli
signed and dated 'Jean Gabriel Domergue 3 23' (lower right)
gouache, watercolour, charcoal and pencil on paper laid down on canvas
63 1/8 x 47 3/8 in. (160.3 x 120.4 cm.)
Executed in 1923
Special notice
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 17.5% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

Noé Willer will include this work in his forthcoming Domergue catalogue raisonné.

Born in Bordeaux in 1889, Jean Gabriel Domergue was only 17 years old when he exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français for the first time in 1906. Precociously talented and destined for success from a young age, he won a gold medal at the 1920 Salon. He showed early promise as a landscape artist however the 1920s saw a major shift in his focus to what would become his trademark subject, la belle Parisienne. Viewed in the context of the Roaring Twenties or Les Années Folles, such a shift is not surprising for the ambitious young artist.

As Europe rebounded from the horrors of the First World War, Paris became a restless centre of frenetic jubilation as the 'bright young things' sought to extract a maximum of decadent pleasure from every moment. A new found sense of liberation impacted all of the creative arts from fashion to music and dance. Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes radicalized the tradition notion of ballet and a rampant subculture of jazz and jazz-influenced dance music popularized by such dancers as the American Josephine Baker quickly embedded itself into the Parisian scene. From an artistic and architectural point of view, the basic tenets of Art Nouveau to adopt the simple and asymmetric lines of nature, particularly exotic plants and flowers, remained but would gradually give way to the more angled lines of Art Deco in the mid 1920s.

In the present work, La Danseuse Diane Belli, Domergue exquisitely captures the exuberance and insouciance of this hedonist age through his subject, Diane Belli, the essence of la garçonne, the emancipated woman with a passion for the latest in fashion, hairstyle and dance. The depiction of this dancer shares much in common with the contemporaneous sculpture of Demeter Chiparus, a Romanian artist whose sensuously clad dancers wear costumes which cling to their beautifully athletic bodies. While Domergue later considered himself the inventor of the 1920s pin-up, his oeuvre encompassed not only nudes, actresses and dancers, but also, and just as importantly, portraits of aristocratic figures such as Liane de Pougy and Nadine, future Baroness de Rothschild. His extensive social network allowed him to organise some of the most legendary parties of the 1920s such as the Bal Vénitien at the Paris Opéra in 1922 as well as other themed soirées in Monte Carlo, Cannes and Biarritz. His artistic legacy will remain the evocation of the beautiful Parisienne although he was latterly appointed conservateur of the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris where he organised exhibitions on da Vinci, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Goya.

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