Kees van Dongen at the Villa Sauber
What: The Studio of Kees van Dongen
Where: Villa Sauber, Monaco
When: 15 June to 25 November 2012
When the 91-year-old Kees van Dongen
died in 1968 in Monte Carlo, the world lost one of its most pioneering painters. In the first decade of the twentieth century, the Rotterdam-born artist was one of a group whose use of unconventionally bright colours earned them the nickname 'Fauves', or 'Wildcats'.
Where impressionists such as Monet would often use colour in striking new ways to produce effects of light and shade, in Fauvism
, colour was an end in itself, heightening and intensifying the viewer's emotional response to colour in the same way that Cubism did for shape and form. As with many modernist movements, the Fauves - who included Matisse, Henri Rousseau, Delaunay, Vuillard and Vlaminck - were determined to shift the boundaries, to challenge the ordinary way of seeing the world, and did not mind courting controversy as they did so.
For van Dongen, this new direction proved hugely profitable: he became much in demand as a society painter, creating portraits the rich and famous which emphasized the exuberant bohemianism of 1920s and 1930s society. After the war, van Dongen lived variously in Deauville, Monte Carlo, and Paris, where a 1949 exhibition was wildly successful.
It would be another forty years before the Musée d'Art Moderne 'rediscovered' his work in an important Paris exhibition, followed by one in his home city of Rotterdam. In 2008, the 40th anniversary of van Dongen's death, the Museums of both Montreal and Monaco hosted a major retrospective, centred on some of the artist's works held in Monaco's permanent collection, including 'Spotted Chimera', and 'Archangel's Tango', both of which can be seen hanging in the artist's Paris studio in the photograph below:
Four years on, the Villa Sauber
, one of the two homes of the New National Museum, is honouring Monaco's adopted son once more by displaying items from its collection in a new hanging on the ground floor. The display is not intended to be on the same scale as the 2008 retrospective; rather the intention is to give a feeling of the intimate atmosphere of the artist's studio, from his days in Montparnasse to those in Montmartre.
Meanwhile, on the villa's first floor, there will be a display of the extraordinary panoramic view of Monaco by the earlier painter Jean-Baptiste Olive
created for the Monaco Pavilion at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. Born in Marseilles in 1849, Olive had an extensive reputation as a maritime painter and was responsible for some of the murals in the famous Train Bleu
restaurant at Paris's Gare de Lyon.
Mounted on wood, the painting was later installed in the lobby of the Monte-Carlo Sporting, no doubt because it offered the same panoramic view. Subsequently, however, this once glorious canvas was split up into thirteen panels and stashed away in the store-rooms of the Société des Bains de Mer. It has now been exhumed for restoration, and will form part of a major architectural exhibition due to take place at NMNM in 2013.