Kees van Dongen was a famous French printmaker and painter who was a leading member of the Fauvism Movement and was especially known for his sensuous, stylised paintings of women.
Cornelis Theodorus Marie van Dongen also famously known as Kees van Dongen was born on 26th January 1877 in Delfshaven, Netherlands. He had an inclination towards arts right from his childhood and joined the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam at the age of 16. During this time (1892-97) he used to frequently visit the seaport areas of Red Quarter and used to draw scenes of prostitutes and sailors. He went to Paris at the age of 20. He took up several jobs during his stay at the Montmartre district – house painter, illustrator, café artist etc. In 1901, he married Augusta Preitinger, who was his fellow painter at the fine arts academy of Rotterdam but later got divorced in the year 1921.
Van Dongen was greatly influenced by the works of the Impressionists and his early works reflect this explicitly. However, during the 1900s he changed his style whereby the in his paintings became more concentrated and vivid. He participated in the controversial exhibition of Salon D’Automne in 1905 together with Albert Marquet, Charles Camoin and Henri Matisse. Louis Vauxcelles, the famous art critic called these artists as “Fauvists” because of the use of bright colours in their paintings.
During these years, Van Dongen joined an experimental group of artists including Maurice de Vlaminck, Henri Rousseau, Albert Marquet, Robert Delaunay etc. that aspired to renew paintings by taking them out of neo-impressionism. He signed a contract with Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, the dealer of Pablo Picasso in 1907 which helped him in gaining a growing reputation. In 1908, he exhibited with the Expressionist group of German, “Die Brücke” but remained committed towards Fauvism.
After the end of the 1st World War, Van Dongen came into limelight and his lush coloured paintings and candid portrait style caught fancy among the French bourgeoisie and upper classes. Thereafter he focused on this style of painting for quite a long time. His style of portrait mainly included a gorgeous woman’s figure with red lips and large eyes. The portrait of Anatole France (a famous writer) of 1917 gained a lot of popularity. Apart from painting portraits, Van Dongen also painted rich coloured scenes and seascapes of Paris in quite an economical style. He had also produced several lithographs.
The artist had received several honours acknowledging his immense contribution to the field of arts. He received the Knighthood from the prestigious French Legion of Honor in the year 1926, the Order of the Crown of Belgium in 1927 and French citizenship in 1929. Musée du Luxembourg collected 2 of Van Dongen’s work in the same year of 1929.
From 1959, Van Dongen started living in Monaco. He died at his home in Monte Carlo in the year 1968. The New National Museum of Monaco held an extensive collection of this Dutch artist’s work.