KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
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MASTERPIECES FROM THE COLLECTION OF SAM JOSEFOWITZ: A LIFETIME OF DISCOVERY AND SCHOLARSHIP
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)

La Quiétude

Details
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
La Quiétude
signed 'Van Dongen' (lower centre)
oil on canvas
45 x 57 ½ in. (115 x 146 cm.)
Painted in 1918
Provenance
Paul Poiret, Paris, by whom acquired directly from the artist; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 18 November 1925, lot 13 (titled 'Fidélité'; illustrated with incorrect caption).
Henri Aubry, France, by whom acquired at the above sale, and thence by descent; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 27 February 1928, lot 156 (titled 'Les colombes, peinture').
Pierre Delebart, Paris, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Jacques Chalom des Cordes, Paris.
Acquired from the above in 1967, and thence by descent to the present owners.
Literature
P. Cabanne, 'Un fauve, un faune, nommé van Dongen' in Lectures pour tous, Paris, 1963, p. 39 (illustrated).
L. Chaumeil, Van Dongen, L’homme et l’artiste, La vie et l’œuvre, Geneva, 1967, p. 327 (illustrated pl. XXIV).
G. Diehl, Van Dongen, New York, 1969 (illustrated p. 59).
J. M. Kyriazi, Van Dongen: aprés le fauvisme, Lausanne, 1976, pp. 98 & 143 (illustrated pl. 99 and on the front cover).
Y. Deslandres, Paul Poiret 1879-1944, Paris, 1986, p. 71 (illustrated).
P. Dufour, 'van Dongen, le Peintre' in Beaux Arts, no. 77, March 1990, p. 136 (illustrated; dated '1920').
C. Terzieff 'Kees van Dongen, un fauve parmi les femmes' in 7 à Paris, 11 April 1990 (illustrated).
D. Harris, 'Fashion legends: Paul Poiret, Multifaceted Figure of the Twenties' in Architectural Digest, October 1994, p. 187 (illustrated in situ).
B. Loyauté, 'Des intérieurs couture' in Cahier marché de l'art, Paris, April 2005, p. 88.
H. Koda & A. Bolton, Poiret, exh. cat., New York, 2007 (illustrated as a frontispiece).
J.-M. Bouhours et al., Kees Van Dongen, exh. cat., Monaco, 2008, p. 278 (illustrated fig. 61).
A. Hopmans, All Eyes on Kees van Dongen, exh. cat., Rotterdam, 2010, p. 145 (illustrated; dated ‘1917’).
A. Hopmans, Van Dongen: Fauve, anarchiste et mondain, exh. cat., Paris, 2011, p. 119 (illustrated; dated ‘1917’).
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Barbazanges, La collection particulière de M. Paul Poiret, April - May 1923, no. 34 (titled 'Amour').
New York, Leonard Hutton Galleries, A Comprehensive Exhibition of Paintings, 1900-1925 by Van Dongen, November - December 1965, no. 23 (illustrated; titled 'Repos' and dated '1919').
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, Poiret le magnifique, January 1974, no. 359, p. 82 (illustrated pl. XXIII; dated '1918').
Geneva, Musée de l’Athénée, Van Dongen, July - October 1976, no. 22 (illustrated; dated ‘1920’).
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Kees van Dongen, December 1989 - February 1990, no. 45, p. 162 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Van Dongen, Le Peintre 1877-1968, March - June 1990, pp. 39 & 259 (illustrated p. 39).
Further details
This work will be included in the forthcoming Van Dongen Digital Catalogue Raisonné, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

From his earliest days in Paris in 1897, Kees van Dongen admired both Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s unflinching eye and directness of style, and the Fauvism espoused by Henri Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, and André Derain. Even as language around Fauvism evolved, Van Dongen continued to employ a riotous blend of bright pigments and an energetic application of paint, creating works of stunning chromatic vigour that challenged the possibilities of colour.
In 1913, Van Dongen travelled to Egypt, a trip which was to profoundly impact his painting. He arrived in Cairo in the spring and spent his first few weeks exploring the city and searching for a place to work. In mid-April, Van Dongen and the antiquarian Joseph Altounian sailed down the Nile to Luxor, stopping in Minya to see the tombs of Beni Hasan along the way. Surviving photographs show Van Dongen next to a sculpture of Ramesses II, and the two-dimensional silhouettes of Egyptian statuary captured the artist’s imagination. Already drawn to so-called oriental colours and patterns that were in vogue at this time in Parisian fashion, the trip further cemented Van Dongen’s appreciation of the region, an influence that would continue to reverberate years later in works such as La Quiétude.
Painted in 1918, La Quiétude is mesmeric, a phantasmagoria of colour and life, a reverie made real. Against a steel-grey ground, two figures lie entwined, their bright bodies painted midnight blue and siren red. Around them is an entire menagerie: twinned songbirds, a drowsy dog, a monkey. The brash colours belie the somnolent atmosphere, and in this languorous harem, they lay gracefully, their curved bodies in perfect harmony with one another. This is an eroticised dream complete with a sleepy Scheherazade made modern by her heeled boots. It was a fitting subject given that Van Dongen made a series of illustrations for One Thousand and One Nights that same year.
Orientalism, the European fascination with culture and civilisations of North Africa and the Middle East, flourished from the second half of the 19th century through to the outset of the First World War. But, as Edward Said, argued, orientalism did not only define Europe, it also served as ‘an integral part of the European material civilisation and culture’ (E. Said, Orientalism, New York, 1978, p. 2). Its influence was felt across many different facets of society from fashion to literature and politics; within the realm of the fine arts, painters such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Eugène Delacroix elevated the genre and defined it for posterity.
Although stylistic approaches to the subject differed, the lure of the imaginary Orient endured, a place made all the more appealing for the women who came to represent its hedonistic immoderations: ‘unobtainable’ they ‘haunted the Western visitor and goaded him to seek excess, if only in his imagination’ (ibid., p. 19). ‘One of the preoccupations which profoundly affected the Western understanding of the Near East,’ writes MaryAnne Stevens, ‘was the belief that this region could satisfy the West’s urge for exotic experience’ and the theme of the harem became one with which many Modern artsits contended (M. Stevens, ‘Western Art and its Encounter with the Islamic World’, in The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse, European painters in North Africa and the Near East, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1984, p. 18).
Indeed, the colour palette, heady atmosphere, and pose of the figures in La Quiétude place Van Dongen’s painting in dialogue with Matisse’s œuvre – the modernist heir to the Orientalist tradition – conjuring images of Odalisque à la culotte rouge, 1921 and Odalisque à la culotte grise, 1927, both in the collection of the Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris. Such a relationship extended well beyond the choice of subject matter and it is in the colours of La Quiétude where Matisse can be most felt. The vivid swathes of burnt red and blue echo the chromatic intensity that Matisse favoured throughout his career. Like Matisse, Van Dongen too embraced a rich and potent colour palette, which he saw as the best means of interpreting and imaging reality.

Describing Van Dongen’s colour palette, Guillaume Apollinaire, the poet and art critic, wrote in Les Arts in March 1918, ‘Today, everything that touches on the voluptuous is surrounded by grandeur and silence. But voluptuousness survives among the extravagant figures of Van Dongen, with their violent and desperate colours. The blaze of made-up eyes sharpens the novelty of the yellows and pinks, the spiritual purity of the cobalt blues and ultramarines shaded to infinity, the dazzling reds ready to die for passion. This nervous sensuality, so young and fresh, is composed only of light; these colours, so magical and so suggestive, are, as it were, incorporeal. This colourist was the first to take the sharp glare of electric lights and add it to the scale of nuances. The result is an intoxication, a vibration, a bedazzlement; colour, even while preserving an extraordinary individuality, swoons, flares up, soars, pales and disappears without ever having been darkened by so much as the idea of a shadow… This painter does not express life in incandescent colours; he does, however, translate it with vehement precision. European or exotic as he chooses, Van Dongen has a violent, personal sense of Orientalism. His paintings often smell of opium and amber’ (G. Apollinaire, quoted in L.C. Breunig, ed., Apollinaire on Art, Boston, 2001, pp. 459-460).
Van Dongen’s approach to Orientalism was multisensorial and for a period, he gravitated towards a related lifestyle. Two years before La Quiétude was executed, the artist moved into Villa Saïd, a cul-de-sac on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. Van Dongen took up residence at number 29 and filled his home with dark colours, velvet curtains covered in gold spirals, sumptuous carpets. In a room at the top of the house, sunlight shone through blue-tinted windows decorated with garlands of exotic flowers. Ameen Rihani, the Lebanese-American author working in Paris at this time, described the effect as ‘an Oriental dream of voluptuous splendour... The Villa Said [sic] is a picture gallery of the Arabian Nights and of Paris Midnights’ (A. Rihani quoted in A. Hopmans, All Eyes on Kees van Dongen, exh. cat., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2010, p. 143).
Villa Saïd was a fashionable address in the 16th arrondissement, and on Van Dongen’s street lived Anatole France and Pierre Laval, the soon-to-be Prime Minister of France. The artist’s studio became a gathering place for the who’s who of fashion and cinema, and guests included the actress Ève Francis, filmmaker Louis Delluc, and Paul Lafitte, the director of the publishing house La Sirène. Van Dongen’s entrée into a new social milieu had been facilitated in part by Léa Jacob, known as Jasmy, his paramour. Jasmy worked at a maison de couture on the Champs-Éysées, often modelling the latest fashions. She introduced Van Dongen to Paris’ haute bourgeoisie and the world of fashion, and many of the people he met through her would sit for portraits in the coming years.
Van Dongen soon became close with Paul Poiret, the fashion designer known as Le Magnifique, a nod to Süleyman the Magnificent. After working for the House of Worth, Poiret founded his own maison de couture in 1903. Two years later, he established a cosmetics company named for his eldest daughter Rosine and a decorative arts firm called Martine after his other daughter. He became, in short, the first couturier to combine fashion with interior design, and Poiret’s promotion of a quasi-Gesamtkunstwerk would have appealed to Van Dongen who saw the paintings he created at Villa Saïd as integral to his home’s decorative programme. As he so often told his visitors, ‘I don’t like paintings you carry off under your arm. They have to fit in their setting’ (K. van Dongen quoted in ibid., p. 145). These tenets were transferred to his paintings and at this juncture van Dongen was developing a growing interest in patterning, which he approached though a flatter application of paint and by blending decorative motifs from different cultures.
It wasn’t simply Poiret’s ethos that appealed to Van Dongen but also the designer’s creations. He regularly painted women wearing Poiret gowns, and Villa Saïd had two carpets from Atelier Martine. Van Dongen and Poiret were close, and they collaborated in 1920 on a publication entitled Deauville, which Poiret wrote and Van Dongen illustrated with watercolours showing the social life of Deauville, its lively casino, and sophisticated women. The admiration was evidently mutual, and Poiret acquired La Quiétude directly from Van Dongen which he then proceeded to hang in a place of honour directly above his bed.

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