Cornelis Théodorus Marie (aka Kees) Van Dongen, was born in 1877 in Delfshaven, Holland. At the early age of 12, he left school to work in his father’s malthouse. From 1894 to 1896, van Dongen studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam and then moved to Paris in 1897 where he held various small jobs to survive, including that of cartoonists for various newspapers.
First influenced by post-impressionism, van Dongen started exhibiting his work at the Salon des Indépendants and at the Salon d’Automne from 1904 but quickly took part in the Fauvist movement, in 1905. He subsequently exhibited at the Galerie Kahnweiller and at the Galerie Bernheim -Jeune.
Kees van Dongen joined the group Die Brücke with whom he exhibited in 1908 and the New Secession of Munich in 1910. Between 1907 and 1912, portraits of women dominate the painter’s canvases and show influences from Fauvism and Expressionism. Van Dongen eroticizes his models whose sensual poses are exacerbated by vivid colors and intense contrasts shaping their bodies.
A socialite, van Dongen is widely recognized as the portraitist of the roaring twenties. He dies in his residence in Monte Carlo in 1968, leaving an extraordinary body of work that will influence many artists throughout the twentieth century.