Dongen, Kees van (1877-1968) - 1919c. The Corn Poppy, a photo by RasMarley on Flickr.
Kees van Dongen, was a Dutch painter and one of the Fauves. He gained a reputation for his sensuous, at times garish, portraits. He was born in the suburbs of Rotterdam. In 1892 van Dongen started his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam. Between 1892 to 1897, he frequented the Red Quarter seaport area, where he drew scenes of sailors and prostitutes. In 1899 he went to Paris. He began to exhibit in Paris, including the controversial 1905 exhibition Salon d'Automne, in a room featuring Matisse and others. The bright colors of this group of artists led to them being called Fauves ('Wild Beasts'). He was also briefly a member of the German Expressionist group Die Brücke (The Bridge). He was part of an avant-garde wave of painters—Maurice de Vlaminck, Othon Friesz, Henri Rousseau, Robert Delaunay, Albert Marquet, Edouard Vuillard—who incarnated hopes of a renewal in painting stuck in Neo-impressionism. In 1906 he moved to 13 rue Ravignan, where he was friends with the circle 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. With a playful cynicism he remarked of his popularity as a portraitist with high society women; ' 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 that allies itself to another of his sayings - ' Painting is the most beautiful of lies.' In 1926 he was awarded the Legion of Honour and in 1927 the Order of the Crown of Belgium. In 1929 he received French nationality and two of his works were admitted to the Musée du Luxembourg.