Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kees Did Fashion Art Too

I wrote about Fauvist-turned-society-artist Kees van Dongen here. Recently I came across a piece of fashion illustration by him and thought I'd present it along with a few other works that are fashion illustrations or items looking a lot like they were.

To set the scene, above is a fairly typical van Dongen painting that might have been done in the early 1900s. Note the large, darkly painted eyes and the intense, Fauvist color scheme.

Now consider some works he did in the late 1920s or the 1930s in the fashion illustration genre:


This is from perhaps the British edition of Harper's Bazaar magazine.

From a French publication.

The two items above might not be fashion-related illustrations, though they give every appearance of being so.

Van Dongen retained his characteristic rendition of eyes, likely with the strong approval of the art director who commissioned the piece; the whole point being that the image was done by van Dongen himself, a well-known artist at the time.

What is missing is the Fauvist coloring, but Kees no doubt was willing to sacrifice that feature of his work for some francs that he needed to support his lifestyle.

I suppose there are many who consider van Dongen a sellout because he made a lot of money doing portraits of fashionable ladies and because of the commercial work shown here. Me? I figure that people need to make a living. Even artists.


Hels said...

I wonder if van Dongen separated in his own mind the two streams of work - his serious art and his commercial projects.

Lots of writers create most of their novels under their own name but will adopt a pseudonym for a second stream of more experimental or pot boiler novels.

Donald Pittenger said...

Hels -- I'm on the road and away from my main source book on him, plus Wikipedia is down today, so this is my impression: His drift from Fauvism was probably conscious. He was getting older and had a wife and (I think) a child to support, so art for art's sake might not have been absolute top-priority. Moreover, he liked to throw large parties for the artist crowd in Paris, and these cost money. And he probably preferred the affluent lifestyle of a fashionable painter. After all, in those days even Picasso had a chauffeured Hispano-Suiza automobile: the very best.