Van Dongen - A Fauve In The City Opens Today at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts

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Van Dongen - A Fauve In The City Opens Today at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts
Kees Van Dongen (1877-1968), The Wrestlers or Tabarin Wrestlers, 1907-08, oil on canvas, 105.5 x 164 cm. Nouveau Musée National de Monaco. Photo Marcel Loli. © Estate of Kees van Dongen/ SODRAC (2008).

MONTREAL.- The exhibition Van Dongen - A Fauve in the City, presented from January 22 to April 19, 2009 at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts (, is the first major retrospective of the work of Kees Van Dongen (1877-1968) in North America.

The exhibition, which brings together some 200 works, including over a hundred paintings, forty rare drawings, prints and other archival documents and photographs as well as for the first time, a dozen Fauvist ceramics, will illustrate the influential role Van Dongen played in the early twentieth century as the only portraitist among the Fauves.

His dazzling, shameless paintings, described as "riots of light, heat and colour," attest to his distinctive style within modern art alongside his contemporaries Matisse and Picasso. His caustic, urban, scandalous art is very different from the landscape Fauvism that is generally associated with this movement. In light of new research and previously little-known works, the artist's career will be traced from his early days in Holland to the time he settled in Paris and participated in the illustrious Salon d'Automne of 1905, which established Fauvism as a new style in modern art. Arresting paintings of nudes and coquettish female figures that nevertheless retain the sumptuous palette and rich impasto of his Fauvist works will be examined through the themes of exoticism, spectacle and Orientalism. During the 1920s, Van Dongen frequented high society, which earned him commissions for portraits of the most celebrated personalities of the era. An impressive selection of these major portraits from the Roaring Twenties and a series of landscapes in saturated colours will illustrate the artist's mature period.

Major Works - The Montreal exhibition will present, for the first time in North America, the outstanding collection of works by Van Dongen recently acquired by the Nouveau Musée national de Monaco, including the magisterial Spotted Chimera (1895-1907) and the Tabarin Wrestlers (1907-1908), an astonishing canvas that has not been exhibited for over fifty years, and Tango of the Archangel (1922-1935). The Musée national d'art modern, the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d'art modern de la Ville de Paris have granted many outstanding loans for the exhibition, including the famous Tableau that created a scandal in 1913 and the Self-portrait as Neptune (1922). Many major loans have also been received from public and private collections in Europe and elsewhere, including a number of important works from the Nahmad family. The Montreal exhibition is also presenting works from American collections.

The Exhibition Themes - The themes of the exhibition will introduce visitors to Van Dongen's rich and varied oeuvres as they follow his career from Rotterdam to Paris, where he was an active player in the avant-garde scene of the early twentieth century. From North to South, from Symbolism to Neo-impressionism (1885-1904) presents early works executed in Holland, which reflect Van Dongen's inspiration, which ranged from Rembrandt to the Neo-Impressionists; Van Dongen Illustrator (1895-1904) reveals the key role his graphic work played in his art, which was defended by Van Dongen's first, most influential supporter, art critic Félix Fénéon; Van Dongen Fauve (1904-1912) shows his style evolving under the influence of artists of the avant-garde like Matisse and Picasso, as well as how he became notorious after his participation in the Salon d'Automne in 1905, and his growing interest in portraiture, the worlds of the cabaret and the circus and his obsession with women; Exoticism and Orientalism (1910-1917) reveals how his trips to Spain, Morocco and Egypt inspired him to create new harmonies of colors and to explore a new purity of line; The Artist's Studio: A Social Venue (1914-1930). During this period the now famous Van Dongen frequented Paris high society and painted a gallery of portraits that represent a chronicle of the Roaring Twenties; and Landscapes (the 1950s) the final section, presents works, as well as archival documents and photographs, that show the artist revisiting the themes and styles that characterized his early years.

Curators: Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and Jean-Michel Bouhours, curator at the Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou, are the exhibition curators. Anne Grace, Curator of Modern Art at the MMFA, is the associate curator. The Curatorial Committee includes Christian Briend, chief curator of prints and drawings, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou; Anita Hopmans, chief curator of modern and contemporary art, Netherlands Institute for Art History in the Hague; and Daniel Marchesseau, chief curator for heritage, Direction des musées de France, and director of the Musée de la vie romantique de la Ville de Paris.

The Catalogue: More than just a catalogue, this richly illustrated book will be co-published by the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco and Hazan, Paris, in separate French and English editions. It includes many previously unpublished documents thanks to the co-operation of the artist's family. The first major work published in English on Van Dongen, it includes essays by a team of internationally renowned experts, including, for the first time, American art historians.

This exhibition is organized by the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, in partnership with the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco. It has also received support from the artist's family. The exhibition will travel from Monaco to Montréal and subsequently to Barcelona's Picasso Museum.

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