Painted in 1911, La Baigneuse exemplifies the soignée women featured in Van Dongen's paintings from the war years. These highly-stylized figures personified the fashion of the era, as does the reed-like silhouette of the bather here as she emerges from the water. According to the artist's daughter Dolly, van Dongen could be quite secretive about some of his best pictures, keeping them out of view whenever buyers came to his studio. The artist kept the present picture until his death, at which point it was inherited by his daughter.
While the sulfurous yellows and lurid greens which were to become hallmarks of his mature work are more muted at this early stage, the bather already exudes the troubling sensuality which became more overt in his later work. In his prologue to his December 1911 exhibition, van Dongen asserted that "a certain immodesty is truly a virtue, as is the absence of respect for many respectable things" (ibid., p. 87). The present work is underpinned by a strange combination of Baudelairism and naïveté that captures the exotic nature of the bohemian world that the artist so clearly enjoyed.
- Estate of the artist
- Dolly A. Van Dongen (by descent from the above)
- Wildenstein & Co., New York
- Private collections the Netherlands since May 2005
1976 - Geneva, Musée de l'Athénée, Van Dongen, 1976, no. 15, illustrated in the catalogue
1990 - Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Van Dongen, Le Peintre, 1990, illustrated in color in the catalogue
2004 - Ornans, Musée Courbet, Jeux d'eau de la source à l'océan, 2004, no. B16, illustrated in color p. 103 and frontispiece
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Kees Van Dongen being prepared by Jacques Chalom des Cordes with the assistance of the Wildenstein Institute.
more about Kees van Dongen
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Kees van Dongen, born Cornelis Theodorus Maria van Dongen on the 26th of January 1877 in Rotterdam, was the second of four childeren from a family that owned two malt-houses. After finishing secondary school, Van Dongen entered Rotterdam's Academy of Fine Arts in 1894. His parents always encouraged their son's artistic ambitions, and even allowed him to set up a studio in the attic of t . . .