Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)
Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

Portrait de Mademoiselle Erna Carise

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)
Portrait de Mademoiselle Erna Carise
signed 'van Dongen.' (lower left); signed again and inscribed 'van Dongen Erna C 75 Rue de Courcelles Paris' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
57 5/8 x 38 ¼ in. (146.2 x 97.4 cm.)
Galerie Charpentier, Paris (by 1942).
Galerie Romanet, Paris.
Galerie Taménaga, Tokyo.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, August 1984.
Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbe-Museum, Hedendaagsche Nederlandsche Kunst, April 1936, p. 17, no. 111.
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, The International Exhibition of Paintings, October-December 1938, no. 59.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Van Dongen, Cinquante ans de peinture, 1942, no. 112 (incorrectly titled and dated 1938).

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David Kleiweg de Zwaan
David Kleiweg de Zwaan

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.

Perhaps no artist captured the crazed and heady atmosphere of the années folles in the 1920s as flawlessly as Kees van Dongen. Likely painted in the 1920s, Portrait de Erna Carise is an absorbing, sensual depiction of the glamorous actress wearing a cascading black dress. Probably best remembered for her role in La revue des revues (1927) alongside Josephine Baker, Erna Carise embodies the elegance of her time.
Women had long been Van Dongen's primary subject matter, a template for him to explore and celebrate the world of beauty and pleasure. "All women are beautiful," Van Dongen once explained. "They must be allowed to do as they please, for they pose better than men. They know how to arrange themselves so that everything they have shows up to advantage. Men don't bother; they think they're handsome enough as they are" (quoted in J.-P. Crespelle, The Fauves, London, 1962, p. 224).
During the earlier part of his career, Van Dongen had been a chronicler of the Parisian demi-monde. Now, largely under the auspices of Marchesa Casati and then Jasmy Jacob with whom he became involved during the latter half of the 1910s and during the 1920s, he was introduced to the chic salons and balls of the more fashionable classes. Accordingly, Van Dongen's own home became one of the hot spots of the age, and his vernissages were events not to be missed. This is clear from a description of one of the openings he held at his home in Paris, published in Ecouter around the time the present work was painted:
"At midnight five hundred people filled every floor of van Dongen's townhouse in peaceful rue Juliette Lamber. Women in furs and pearls, men in tails and tuxedos, Montparnassians in jackets with their girlfriends in clinging sweaters... Van Dongen himself, in a jacket, pipe between his teeth, maintained an altogether Dutch calm, and without reacting in the slightest, was greatly occupied with allowing himself to be looked at by so many Levantines, Bulgarians, Americans, Brazilians, Czechoslovakians—nocturnal butterflies attracted from the four corners of the world by this blazing fire" (N. Bondil and J.M. Bouhours, eds., Van Dongen, exh. cat., The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2008, p. 260).
Van Dongen began to capture the elegant women that surrounded him through a new aesthetic. Rather than focusing on color, he sought to capture the elongated, supine elegance of the women of his era using a reduced palette. Portrait de Erna Carise, with its sensual, sweeping brushstrokes and vivid contrasts, perfectly encapsulates van Dongen's statement, "I love anything that glitters, precious stones that sparkle, fabrics that shimmer, beautiful women who arouse carnal desire... painting lets me possess all this most fully" (quoted in M. Giry, Fauvism, Fribourg, 1981, pp. 224-226).

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