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Spanish Woman

Painting, 46×39 cm
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Description of the artwork «Spanish Woman»

Most of his life the Dutchman Kees van Dongen spent in France. He went there after graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam. “Paris drew me like a beacon,” he confessed later. Having settled in Montmartre, the artist immersed himself in the atmosphere of the bohemian region where he used to find his sitters at first.
Thanks to the two paintings by van Dongen, exhibited at the historic Autumn Salon of 1905, the artist became a member of the Fauves. The art critic Louis Vauxcelles, who coined the name for this art movement, said that the Netherlander’s works were “the overthrowing orgy of light, heat and colors.” The artist was pleased with such reviews, since he liked to disturb the serenity of respectable citizens. Although if you compare his portraits with Matisse’s famous Woman with a Hat, which caused a sensation at the same Salon, they may not seem so glaringly colorful.
Thanks to his portraits, Van Dongen managed to join the secular life of the French capital. At first, his sitters were demimondaines: cabaret singers, dancers, and red-light district workers. Soon, his idealized, generalized images of big-eyed beauties gained such popularity that even the representatives of the elite began to line up to get painted by the artist.
Everyone wanted to see herself as van Dongen saw women: passionate, bright divas without any flaws, looking more like dolls with perfect proportions.
Because of this idealization, it is difficult to find a detailed portrait resemblance in his works, and the subjects of some paintings look so differently, that one would never think the portraits represent the same sitter (1, 2). But this did not affect the flow of those wishing to get a portrait by van Dongen.
The painting Spanish Woman serves as a good illustration of his style. The first thing you notice when looking at it is a bright blush and huge, bottomless eyes. Compared to his other works, the colors look rather reserved here. The Spaniard, wearing a modest dress with a high collar and having a piercingly sad, slightly shy gaze, stands apart from other van Dongen’s sitters, who provokingly pose and coquettishly flirt with the viewer.
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About the artwork

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Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Art Nouveau

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Size: 46×39 cm

Artwork in selections: 12 selections

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