KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
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This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When au… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)

La femme au collier

KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
La femme au collier
signed 'van Dongen.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
100.3 x 81.3 cm. (39 1⁄2 x 32 in.)
Painted in 1908
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by 1908
Galerie Druet, Paris
Helena Rubinstein, New York, Paris & London; her estate sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 20 April 1966, lot 43
Private collection, London, by whom acquired at the above sale
Prince & Princess Mario Ruspoli, Paris, by October 1967
Lefevre Fine Art Ltd., London
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Exposition Van Dongen, November - December 1908, no. 52.
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Van Dongen, October - November 1967, no. 28a, n.p. (illustrated; dated '1905'); this exhibition later travelled to Rotterdam, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, December 1967 - January 1968.
Special notice
This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When auctioned, such property will remain under “bond” with the applicable import customs duties and taxes being deferred unless and until the property is brought into free circulation in the PRC. Prospective buyers are reminded that after paying for such lots in full and cleared funds, if they wish to import the lots into the PRC, they will be responsible for and will have to pay the applicable import customs duties and taxes. The rates of import customs duty and tax are based on the value of the goods and the relevant customs regulations and classifications in force at the time of import.
Further details
This work will be included in the forthcoming Van Dongen digital catalogue raisonné, published by the Wildenstein Plattner Institute.

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Lot Essay

Celebrating the heady atmosphere of Paris during the opening decade of the Twentieth Century, Van Dongen’s paintings revel in depicting beautiful women, often adorned in contemporary fashions, inviting the viewer to indulge in the vibrant and indulgent world of entertainment, celebrity and enjoyment in which he immersed himself. Executed in rich layers of visceral, visible strokes of paint, Van Dongen’s painterly and colouristic mastery expounds itself in La femme au collier, with attention immediately drawn to the very act of the painting’s creation, making every gesture of the brush, every layering of paint visible on the surface of the canvas. Shifting from long, sweeping strokes of pigment to short, stippled daubs of colour, Van Dongen triumphs in achieving luscious and nuanced texture, evocatively capturing a sense of the delicate play of light as it dances over the model’s skin, set off against the magnificent red background in his perfectly radiant and powerful portrait.

When Kees van Dongen first arrived in Paris, he was immediately struck by the vitality and modernity of the French capital. The artist 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 A. Hopmans, The Van Dongen Nobody Knows: Early and Fauvist Drawings 1895-1912, exh. cat, Rotterdam, Lyons and Paris, 1997, p. 26). Thrusting himself with abandon into the vivacious of the French capital, Van Dongen became one of the foremost chroniclers of the fashionable, vibrant milieu that thronged its streets, the night owls who kicked-up their heels, drinking and dancing the night away. Women soon became his primary subject matter, their elegant, sensuous forms absorbing him endlessly, as he sought to capture a sense of their feminine power and magnetic appeal. Often drawing his models from the world of dancers, performers and cabaret artists that spent their nights dazzling crowds in the clubs and theatres that surrounded his studio, Van Dongen developed a fascination for the intense sensuality of the female body, explaining: ‘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, Fauves, exh. cat., New South Wales and London, 1995, p. 118).

Contemporary critics frequently lauded Van Dongen’s ‘Baudelairean gaze,’ complementing his ability to capture the subtlest details of a scene, which he then used to accurately convey a sense of the vibrant atmosphere of life in contemporary Paris. A modern incarnation of the flâneur, Van Dongen combined his keen observational skills with a cutting-edge, painterly aesthetic, using an expressive approach to colour that aligned his painting with the revolutionary circle of artists known as Les Fauves. Earning their name at the 1905 Salon d’Automne, figures such as Henri Matisse and André Derain exploded onto the Parisian art scene with their boldly clashing pigments and visceral application of paint, challenging the mimetic traditions of painting by freeing colour from a purely descriptive role, evidenced in works such as Matisse’s pivotal Woman with a Hat (1905; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). This seminal work would no doubt have been admired by Van Dongen, the brilliant hat atop Madame Matisse’s head similarly reflecting the fashions of the time that would come to consume him and remain a hallmark in portraits such as La femme au collier. Van Dongen had not exhibited alongside the ‘Wild Beasts’ during the 1905 Salon, he subsequently became associated with their milieu, and rapidly earned a reputation as one of the boldest and most original of the artists involved in Fauvism.

From 1905 to 1907, Van Dongen lived in the artistic heart of Paris, Montmartre, where he rented rooms in the famous network of artist’s studios known as Bateau-Lavoir, on the rue Ravignan alongside Pablo Picasso, whose studio lay on the same floor. The two artists struck up a close friendship during the years that they lived and worked side by side, exchanging works of art, conversing endlessly about their painterly practice, and spending hours in and out of one another’s work spaces. A circle of avant-garde thinkers, writers and artists gathered around Picasso, visiting the artist at Bateau-Lavoir on an almost daily basis. Immersed in this intoxicating world of artistic revolutionaries, Van Dongen began to forge a new path in his art, embracing vibrant, expressive colours, visceral brushwork and a thoroughly modern approach to his subjects.

The anonymous model at the heart of La femme au collier exudes a sense of stillness and grace as she twists to face us, captivating the viewer with her enigmatic expression and magnetic gaze. Her heavily kohled eyes and elegantly rouged lips identify her as a thoroughly modern woman, for whom a stylish appearance was an important element of her identity. Iconic artists of the early 20th century such as Renoir, Matisse and Picasso often employed hats and costumes to indicate fashion trends, to embellish the beauty, decadence and mise en scène of their subjects. Van Dongen too often added elaborate headwear to his models, asking them to adopt large, stylish hats as they posed for him. In the present work, a relatively simple sun-hat is transformed by the addition of a dark grey scarf tied around its crown, which then cascades down the model’s back in a column of material. In keeping with the simple elegance of the rest of her costume, the hat adds to the woman’s graceful air, a visual flourish that marks her out as a fashionable, well-presented young mademoiselle, a typical sight from the streets of Paris.

There is a distinct air of mystery to Van Dongen’s model, her extreme stillness and enigmatic expression revealing little insight into her character, her internal musings, or the emotions she feels as she stands before the artist. Though she makes direct eye contact with the painter, and thus the viewer, she remains distant, somewhat aloof, impenetrable to our probing gaze. Radiating a sense of carefully controlled composure, her secrets, wishes and thoughts remain hidden behind her elegant visage, creating a mysterious, romantic vision evoking the fashionable, elegant women that thronged the streets of Paris in the opening years of the Twentieth Century.

La femme au collier formerly graced the collection of the pioneering cosmetics entrepreneur and avid patron of the arts, Helena Rubinstein. During her decades-long reign as one of the most successful businesswomen in the world, Rubinstein earned a reputation as a voracious and astute collector of avant-garde art, purchasing works by some of the leading figures of the early-twentieth century, which she then installed in her high-end cosmetic boutiques and beauty salons around the world. These lavishly decorated spaces, which were designed by Rubinstein herself to look like domestic interiors, blurred the boundaries between commercial space and private art gallery, with each salon containing carefully selected pieces from her personal collection. Many of Rubinstein’s outlets also featured specially commissioned installations and artworks from some of the most fashionable artists of the time. Drawn to her poise, grace and the magnetism of her gaze, Rubinstein purchased the painting, cherishing it her collection until it was sold as part of her estate in the late 1960s.

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