Today’s Notable Aesthetic
Dongen, Kees van (1877-1968) – 1919c. The Corn Poppy
Kees van Dongen, was a Dutch painter and one of the original members of the controversial Fauves (Wild Beasts). He gained a reputation for his sensuous, at times garish, portraits. But he knew what he wanted to capture in oils and upon finishing his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam in 1892, he frequented the Red Quarter seaport area, where he drew scenes of sailors and prostitutes.
In 1899 he went to Paris and began to exhibit, in among other venues, the notoriously scandalous 1905 exhibition Salon d’Automne, featuring the bright colors of Matisse and others, who were to become known as the Fauves for their irreverence against Impressionism. He was experimental in his work and his associations, being a member of the German Expressionists, part of an avant-garde wave of painters who had hopes of a renewal out of Neo-impressionism and, eventually, joined the circle of friends surrounding Pablo Picasso.
Under the influence of Jasmy Jacob, amongst others, Kees van Dongen developed the lush colors of his Fauvist style. This gained him a solid reputation with the French bourgeoisie. As a fashionable portraitist his subjects included Arletty, Leopold III of Belgium and Maurice Chevalier.
On his popularity as a portraitist of high society women, he cynically remarked, “The essential thing is to elongate the women and especially to make them slim. After that it just remains to enlarge their jewels. They are ravished.”
A remark so in keeping with another of his favored sayings,
“Painting is the most beautiful of lies.”