KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
1 More
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
4 More
The Collection of Jerry Moss
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)

Moi et la femme

Details
KEES VAN DONGEN (1877-1968)
Moi et la femme
oil on canvas
50 3⁄8 x 76 7⁄8 in. (130.6 x 195.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1917
Provenance
Augusta (Dolly) van Dongen, Paris (daughter of the artist).
Jacqueline Boucher, Le Havre (by descent from the above, circa 1987).
Ellen Melas Kyriazi, Lausanne (acquired from the above, 15 October 1987).
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 21 March 1988, lot 67.
Private collection, New York (acquired at the above sale); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 11 November 1988, lot 27.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
Literature
(possibly) W.F.A. Röell, "Een bezoek bij van Dongen: Eigen Brief" in Het Vaderland: staaten letterkundig nieuwsblad, no. 8, 9 January 1920, p. 2.
G. Diehl, Van Dongen, New York, 1969, p. 58 (illustrated in color).
J.M. Kyriazi, Van Dongen après le Fauvisme, Lausanne, 1976, p. 24 (illustrated in color).
N. Bondil and J.-M. Bouhours, eds., Kees Van Dongen, exh. cat., Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, Paris, 2008, p. 46 (illustrated in color, fig. 1).
A. Hopmans, ed., All Eyes on Kees van Dongen, exh. cat., Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2010, p. 145 (illustrated in color).
A. Hopmans, ed., Van Dongen: Fauve, anarchiste et mondain, exh. cat., Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2011, pp. 164 and 177 (illustrated in color, p. 165).
Exhibited
Marseille, Musée Cantini, Hommage à Van Dongen, June-September 1969, no. 55 (illustrated).
Tucson, The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Kansas City, The William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, Cornelis Theodorus Marie van Dongen, February-June 1971, pp. 76 and 186, no. 80 (illustrated in color, p. 76).
Nagoya, Oriental Nakamura; Tokyo, Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi; Osaka, Mitsukoshi; Hakodate, Boni Moriya and Sendai, Mitsukoshi, La Ruche: L'Ecole de Paris à Montparnasse: 1910-1930, August-November 1978, no. 85 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, La Ruche et Montparnasse, December 1978-April 1979, no. 133 (dated 1914).
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris-Moscou: 1900-1930, arts plastiques, arts appliqués et objets utilitaires, architecture-urbanisme, agitprop, affiche, théâtre-ballet, littérature, musique, cinéma, photo créative, May-November 1979, p. 528.
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Salon d'Automne: La grande aventure de Montparnasse, 1912-1932, November 1986, p. 15, no. 39 (illustrated in color).
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.

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Lot Essay

Spanning more than six feet in width and filled with the artist’s characteristically vibrant palette, the striking composition Moi et la femme depicts Kees van Dongen who sits proudly atop his astral throne. The titular femme curls gracefully against him, and she too is nude, save for a pair of pale stockings held up by garters. Behind, a black, velvety sky twinkles with stars.
Moi et la femme conjures images of classical antiquity, specifically the Roman gods who monitored the mortals beneath from their home on Mount Olympus. An article published in 1920 described Van Dongen’s figures in the present work as “a copper Neptune and scarlet dryad,” and these were connotations that the artist hoped to encourage in his ongoing efforts to cultivate his own mythology (W. Röell, “Kees van Dongen,” 1920; reprinted in A. Hopmans, All Eyes on Kees van Dongen, exh. cat., Museum Boijman Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2010, p. 144). Contemporaneous to the present work, Van Dongen painted L’Enlèvement (Private collection), which shows the artist—identifiable by his long beard—as an Atlas-like figure who, instead of the world, holds up a nude woman with the same long blonde hair as the protagonist in Moi et la femme. A few years later, in 1922, he again painted himself as a mythical figure, this time in the guise of Neptune, the Roman god of water and the seas (Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris).
Van Dongen’s pantheon was expansive: both figures in Moi et la femme have been painted in vivid shades of red, a choice inspired by the artist’s travels to Morocco in 1910, and Egypt in 1913. Inspired by the culture and monuments he found in North Africa, Van Dongen began to use red “generously and voluptuously,” to signify “ardor, sex, and blood,” and as a symbol of the exotic (J. Klein, “Van Dongen, Fauve Postmoderne,” in J. Bouhours and N. Bondil, Kees van Dongen, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montreal, 2008, p. 223). These paintings call to mind Henri Matisse’s odalisques, a resonance that was further underscored by Van Dongen’s own association with Fauvism. While Matisse’s languorous women continued the legacy of Orientalism, Van Dongen’s interpretation of the same motif, by 1917, was refracted through his life in France. As Alistair Wright has argued, unlike Matisse, Van Dongen “remained attached to Paris,” a connection which thus impacted much of his imagery (“Du Fauvisme à l’Orientalisme: Correspondances avec Matisse,” in ibid., p. 167).
Indeed, while Moi et la femme takes inspiration from Van Dongen’s travels, the painting’s themes are refracted through the artist’s own experience of Paris. By the time the canvas was painted, Van Dongen was living at Villa Saïd, a chic address in the city’s 16th arrondissement, and in a relationship with Léa Jacob, who introduced him to Paris’s beau monde. He began to associate with the city’s stylish elite—frequenting their glitzy costume parties and painting their portraits—and decorated his home lavishly, with rich, sensual colors, velvet curtains, and his own canvases. As Anita Hopmans has argued, the paintings produced in 1917 “reveal Van Dongen’s growing interest in a more decorative manner that focuses on the surface,” a claim reinforced by the prominent placement of Moi et la femme over the divan at Van Dongen’s home (exh. cat., op. cit., 2010, p. 144). For Van Dongen, his life and persona became inextricably linked to his artistic output, so much so that he endeavored to establish his own personal mythology by painting himself in the guise of a Roman god. These were heady years in Paris, and such associations would have appealed to a clientele seeking to lose themselves in the aftermath of the First World War. Van Dongen fashioned for himself an extravagant existence, and his paintings of these years were intrinsically tied to this. As Hopmans observed, “The artist portrayed the world as it was, but ruled it as its master” (ibid., p. 155).

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