Kees van Dongen

gigatos | May 31, 2022


Kees van Dongen, from his birth name Cornelis Theodorus Marie van Dongen, is a Dutch painter naturalized French, born January 26, 1877 in Delfshaven, district of Rotterdam (Netherlands), and died May 28, 1968 in Monaco.

Kees van Dongen was born in Delfshaven, then a suburb of Rotterdam and now a district of Rotterdam, into a middle-class family. He was the second of four children. In 1892, at the age of 16, Kees van Dongen began his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam, where he worked with J. Striening and J. G. Heyberg. During this period (1892-1897), Van Dongen frequented the Red Light District in the harbor, where he drew scenes of sailors and prostitutes.

He also met Augusta Preitinger (“Guus”), like him a student of painting at the Academy.

Inspired by anarchism, he illustrated in 1895 with Jan Krulder the Dutch edition of Pierre Kropotkine”s book entitled L”Anarchie.

In 1897, he stayed in Paris for several months, living in the Halles district.

He returned in December 1899 to join Guus, with whom he lived in impasse Girardon. They got married on July 11, 1901 in the Saint-Pierre church in Montmartre.

In Paris, he also met Félix Fénéon, who entrusted him in 1901 with an issue of L”Assiette au beurre, Petite histoire pour petits et grands nenfants.

In 1904, he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants and became friends with Maurice de Vlaminck and Henri Matisse. Soon he began to exhibit his work in Paris, including the controversial 1905 Salon d”Automne, where Henri Matisse, among others, was also exhibiting. The bright colors of their works will be the origin of the name of this group of painters: the fauvists. He also taught at the Vitti Academy. In 1911, he exhibited at the Bernheim gallery, rue Richepanse.

He presented another painting, The Spanish Shawl, at the 1913 Autumn Salon; it depicted Guus, dressed only in a yellow shawl with flowers on it, and stockings of the same color. The nudity depicted was deemed outrageous, and the painting was withdrawn the day after the opening.

In 1917, Van Dongen began a relationship with a married woman, a socialite, the dressmaker Léa Jacob, known as Jasmy. Their relationship lasted until 1927.

After the First World War, he settled near the Bois de Boulogne, notably at the Villa Said, and frequented the privileged circles. He lived in particular in the Rose du Vésinet palace, belonging to the marquise Luisa Casati.

Guus and Kees divorced in 1921.

He was decorated as a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1926 and as an Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1954. But it is only in 1929 that he obtains the French nationality.

He presided over the jury of Miss France 1929 and Miss France 1939.

He was also briefly a member of the German expressionist movement, Die Brücke.

In October 1941, along with painters and sculptors Charles Despiau, Paul Belmondo, Louis-Aimé Lejeune, Derain, Dunoyer de Ségonzac, and de Vlaminck, Van Dongen agreed to participate in a “study trip” to Germany organized by Arno Breker. The counterpart of this trip, strongly “advised” by the German government, was to be the release of French artists who were prisoners of war. This trip to Nazi Germany, which was widely exploited by propaganda, was severely criticized by all of them.

He was cremated in the Saint-Pierre cemetery in Marseille, but his ashes are not buried there.

Kees van Dongen is the brother of the sculptor Jean van Dongen.

Homes in Paris

During his stay in 1897

La Vie de Rembrandt, Paris, Allia, 2018, 112 pp. (ISBN 9791030409697)

External links


  1. Kees van Dongen
  2. Kees van Dongen
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