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

Danseuse assise

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)
Danseuse assise
signed 'van Dongen.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
26 x 22 in. (66 x 55.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1952
Anon. sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 10 December 1959, lot 63.
Galerie Hervé Odermatt, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the late owners, by 1971.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Salon des Tuileries, 1953, no. 179.
Post lot text
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

“All women have their beauty and charm which I glorify...big eyes…long eyelashes, satin smooth or matte skin… pearls and brilliants…And the shimmer of satins and velvets, the softness and warmth of furs. You have to want to touch a painting, for it to be a pleasure for all the senses. A painting must be something which is exciting and glorifies life…” -Kees van Dongen
Sensually painted and intimately framed, the present work shows a dancer in a moment of rest, perhaps between acts or at the conclusion of a show. She distracts herself by toying with her ankle, a dainty wrist emerging from the white gossamer clouds of her costume. Brightly illuminated by artificial, electric light, as if sitting center stage, she gazes just past the painter into the distance, refusing to yield her thoughts, impenetrable behind her mysterious facade. Her large, bright eyes and ruby red lips are hallmarks of Van Dongen’s portraits of women, the genesis of which the artist described: “I exteriorize 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” (quoted in J. Freeman, Fauves, exh. cat., The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1995, p. 118).
While Van Dongen’s dancers emerge from Edgar Degas’s tradition of painting ballerinas, his are nether dainty nor classical; here is a women aware of her innate sensuality, which is heightened by Van Dongen’s indulgent brushstrokes and vivid colors. Gaston Diehl has written that the bodies of Van Dongen’s models, “enveloped by a powerful corona, offer themselves shamelessly, exalt the most sensual luxuries, in spite of their bestiality or even vulgarity, which seems to disappear before the seduction of color harmonies...He always succeeds in suggesting the attitude of provocation, and to transmit the same current of ardent sensuality” (Van Dongen, New York, 1968, pp. 41 and 49).
Unlike Degas, who specialized and excelled in his paintings of ballerinas and dancers at the Paris Opera, Van Dongen occupied himself with a wider variety of performers in this genre, painting acrobats, belly dancers and flamenco dancers, in addition to more classical images such as the present example. Much of his imagery derives from his extensive travels abroad, in particular to Spain and to North Africa, but the influence of these exotic figures permeates throughout his oeuvre. As Guillaume Apollinaire, poet, critic and leading advocate of the avant-garde, wrote in his last review of Van Dongen’s work, "The austere zeal of the contemporary arts has generally banished everything that elicits the transport of the senses. 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 colors" (quoted in L.C. Breunig, ed., Apollinaire on Art, Boston, 2001, pp. 459-461).

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