Van Dongen: Painting the Town Fauve

After seeing the retrospective of Kees Van Dongen (1877-1968) at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, I am convinced that the title of this exhibit is very apropos. Strolling through the first rooms of his early drawings I was struck by Van Dongen’s special relationship with the cities where he lived and worked. Nathalie Bondil, one of the curators of the show, writes that Van Dongen depicts the psychological portrait of a ferocious, futile and factice society. Places of pleasure, Paris, Venice, Deauville and Monte Carlo are the backdrops for this theatre of mores.


The Fauves were a short-lived loose grouping of early 20th century Modern artists whose work emphasized painterly qualities and strong color. While most of the artists associated with the movement were mainly painters of nature, Van Dongen was interested in depicting human nature. With the exception of Matisse the human figure is a marginal element in Fauve painting. In Van Dongen’s case the opposite is true. In this exhibition the human condition is painted with a tone that often oscillates between sarcasm and denunciation.


The exhibition takes us into the world of the demimonde, of prostitutes, of single mothers, of people who lived on the fringe of society. We get to know Van Dongen the illustrator. His masterful drawing together with his swift brushwork, lend themselves to powerful illustrations. There is a book on display, described as a story for the young and old, about a single mother who turns to the streets to support her daughter. The book ends with the daughter following her mother’s footsteps.

The show is impeccably presented and I enjoyed the quotes printed on the walls above the paintings:

“Moi je suis comme une vache. Je regarde: je peins ce que je vois.”

“Paris m’attirait comme un phare.”

“Pour vivre, je dessinais dans les squares le portrait des promeneurs qui le voulaient bien et avec Picasso on étalaient nos toiles par terre près de Médrano. Prix unique à cent sous.”

“J’aime les belles femmes qui inspirent le désir charnel et la peinture m’en donne la posession la plus complète.”

“…comme je n’avais pas d’argent pour me payer des modèles professionnels, j’allais dans les bistrots ramasser les filles, qui pour un café crème, acceptaient de poser quelques heures.”


These snippets of writing, together with the paintings, illustrations, and photos of the artist, contain information that let us reconstruct Van Dongen’s life. I liked imagining the artist frequenting the nocturnal haunts that became the stages for his subjects. I could picture him devouring cities with his bestial appetite, getting to know the town from the fringes, painting the town Fauve.

Talleen Hacikyan

Virtual tour of the exhibition

Van Dongen: Painting the Town Fauve
Juanuary 22 to Aril 19, 2009
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

0 Réponses à “Van Dongen: Painting the Town Fauve”

  • Aucun commentaire

Laisser un Commentaire

les arts anciens d' Afrique |
La Maison Bleue à Dives sur... |
les bagues colorées de La P... | | Créer un blog | Annuaire | Signaler un abus | CIRCUS MUNDI
| Ffayce
| mon art, mon expression.......