Jacques Chalom des Cordes will include this work in his forthcoming Van Dongen catalogue critique being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Institute.
Van Dongen's social affinities and connections afforded him a unique vantage point from which he could observe and chronicle contemporary glamour, fashion and mores. He was alert to all the subtleties of social display and behavior, and he could cast a sardonic eye on his subjects when he chose to do so. Yet there is little evidence of ambivalence in his treatment of his sitters--he enjoyed the spectacle and moved easily within and largely identified with this world. Indeed, his view of those fabled years between the wars is all the more valuable because he was genuinely a participant in the passing parade. He did not seek or play the roles of the detached moralist or critic; he chose instead to let his sitters and subjects speak for this lifestyle and themselves. Louis Chaumeil called Van Dongen "le roi et peintre de son temps" (Van Dongen, Geneva, 1967, p. 216).
Van Dongen was the most sought-after portrait painter of his day. Depictions of young women were his specialty, and, as seen here, he was particularly drawn to the newly liberated woman of the 1920s, who projected a sense of independence in ways that were unthinkable in the years before the First World War. The more provocative display in clothing styles and the emphasis on heavy make-up that he had described in his garish paintings of demi-mondaines--dancers, artist's models and prostitutes--during the previous decade were now nearly universally chic and indeed de rigueur among the fashionable upper classes. The young woman in the present portrait is no doubt the proper daughter of a well-to-do family. While showing off her full, painted lips, blushing cheeks and the dark pools of her heavily made up eyes, she has nevertheless maintained the wistful and expectant air of an ingénue, a girl who has yet to truly experience the wider and complex life of a modern woman.