Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE FRENCH COLLECTION
Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Nu au collier, or Carmen l’Algérienne

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)
Nu au collier, or Carmen l’Algérienne
signed ‘van Dongen’ (lower centre)
oil on canvas
31 7/8 x 25 3/4 in. (81 x 65.4 cm.)

The artist, until 1946.
Raymond Nacenta, Paris (director of the Galerie Charpentier), by whom acquired from the artist in 1946.
Galerie Bellier, Paris.
Acquired from the above in 1973, and thence by descent to the present owner.
E. Bénézit, Dictionnaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs, vol. III, Gründ, 1966, p. 384 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Exposition Van Dongen, December 1911, no. 2.
New Delhi, Chefs-d’oeuvre de l’art français, 1946.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Van Dongen, œuvres de 1890 à 1948, March 1949, no. 57 (titled 'Nu').
Saint-Tropez, Musée de l’Annonciade, Van Dongen, July - November 1985, no. 26 (illustrated; dated '1909-1911'; this exhibition later travelled to Toulouse, Réfectoire des Jacobins, October - November 1985.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Lot Essay

Jacques Chalom des Cordes will include this work in his forthcoming Van Dongen catalogue critique being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Institute.

Filled with an overwhelming sense of sensuality and eroticism, Kees van Dongen’s Nu au collier, also known as Carmen l’Algérienne, captures the intoxicating atmosphere of life in bohemian Montmartre during the opening decade of the Twentieth Century. Focusing on the lithe, elegant form of the mysterious ‘Carmen’ of the title, Van Dongen celebrates her naked body in all its glory, capturing the sinuous curves of her form in an array of thick, vigorous brushstrokes. Staring directly out from the canvas, completely at ease with the state of provocative undress in which we find her, Carmen confronts, provokes, titillates and lures the viewer into her space. Adorned by a single delicate necklace, she adopts a languorous seated pose for the painter, appearing as a thoroughly modern odalisque, a symbol of the decadent, sensual environment that Van Dongen immersed himself in during these years.

Van Dongen’s art at this time was dominated by such sensual female figures, with the painter often focusing on characters drawn from the demi-monde of Paris. Van Dongen later explained that the city had attracted him ‘like a lighthouse,’ pulling him in to the hedonistic world of cabarets and nightclubs that filled Montmartre and the Pigalle (Van Dongen, quoted in exh. cat., The Van Dongen Nobody Knows: Early and Fauvist Drawings 1895-1912, Rotterdam, Lyon & Paris, 1997, p. 26). Thrusting himself with abandon into the hurly burly of life in the French capital, Van Dongen became one of the foremost chroniclers of this scandalous milieu. These figures, often shown adopting a provocative pose for the artist, display an exotic eroticism that imbues Van Dongen’s paintings with an overwhelming sensual energy. Speaking about this fascination with the female nude, Van Dongen explained: ‘I exteriorise my desires by expressing them in pictures…I love anything that glitters, precious stones that sparkle, beautiful women who arouse carnal desire… Painting lets me possess all this most fully’ (Van Dongen, quoted in J. Freeman, exh. cat., Fauves, New South Wales & London, 1995, p. 118).

While many of his contemporaries thrilled in capturing nature and sunlight, Van Dongen deliberately set out to paint his night-birds in their nocturnal habitat, their forms bathed in the intense glare of artificial, electric lights. Carmen’s body is illuminated by such a light-source, its bright white light bouncing of the wall behind her and casting the rest of the space in dark, grey shadow. These pockets of darkness appear to envelope her form, thrusting the bright colours of her body into stark relief. Van Dongen employs strokes of rich, colourful paint to highlight her contours, using scarlet, emerald and golden brushstrokes to accentuate the play of light and shadow that fitters across her velvety skin. It was this aspect of his work that Marius-Ary Leblond (the pen-name of the writers, art critics and historians George Athénas and Aimé Merlo) drew attention to in the preface of the catalogue produced for the artist’s exhibition at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in 1908: ‘[Van Dongen] breaks down the harmonies of the rosy skin, in which he discovers acid greens, blood orange reds, phosphorous yellows, vinous lilac, electric blues…’ (Leblond, quoted in M. Hoog, ‘Markers for Van Dongen,’ in exh. cat., Kees van Dongen, Rotterdam, 1989).

Van Dongen frequently courted controversy with the fragrant eroticism of such paintings as Nu au collier, with the police called on more than one occasion to remove his paintings from Parisian exhibitions on the grounds of obscenity. Indeed, in his review of the 1913 Salon d’Automne, Guillaume Apollinaire remarked that Van Dongen appeared to be making a biannual habit of exhibiting work only to have it swiftly removed from view for the good of the public. This followed the outraged reaction of visitors to the exhibition who, upon seeing Van Dongen’s painting Tableau, demanded the work be removed for its salacious portrayal of the artist’s wife. The distinctive eroticism of enchanting sirens such as Carmen, and the often explicitly sexual nature of their content, proved quite shocking to contemporary audiences, and brought the artist a certain degree of notoriety within the Parisian art world.

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