Friday, October 02, 2009

ARTY FARTY FRIDAY ~ Kees van Dongen

I can almost hear a passing reader mumbling "Who the heck is he then?" I said the same when the husband handed me a copy of an old "Réalités" magazine from 1960. The cover bore an image of the painting shown at left. "There's an artist who might be a good subject for you", said the ever helpful spouse, "that painting has always attracted me". "A tad too much eye makeup", I grumbled, "and it reminds me of that dreaded anime style." The painting is "Corn Poppy" by Kees van Dongen

Kees van Dongen, it turns out, was a Dutch painter, born in Rotterdam on 26 January 1877, at, according to Astrodatabank, 7am. He moved to Paris in his twenties and achieved some success, using inspiration from the raw sensuality he found in that great city.

"Kees van Dongen developed the lush colours of his Fauvist style. This gained him a solid reputation with the French bourgeoisie and a resultant profitable lifestyle. As a fashionable portraitist his subjects included Arletty, Leopold III of Belgium, Louis Barthou, Sacha Guitry, Anna de Noailles, Maurice Chevalier. With a playful cynicism he remarked of his popularity as a portraitist with high society women; ' The essential thing is to elongate the women and especially to make them slim. After that it just remains to enlarge their jewels. They are ravished.' A remark that allies itself to another of his sayings - ' Painting is the most beautiful of lies.'"
Painters with Sun in Aquarius are not too thick on the ground. Offhand I can only think of Jackson Pollock and Manet. They embraced two very, very different art styles. Kees van Dongen's style is nearer to Manet's than he is to Pollock's, but really it's akin to neither.

A quick look at van Dongen's natal chart then. I'm looking for the key to his pull towards the overt eroticism evident in many of his paintings. This obviously had to do with making his work commercial, as well as satisfying any drive within himself. Still, it ought to be represented in the chart somewhere.

Sun and Mercury conjoined in Aquarius in first house, Black Moon Lilith within a few degrees of them. I haven't made up my mind about Black Moon Lilith yet, I don't necessarily accept its mythical relationship to any demon goddess or negative feminine symbolism. It is actually the point at which the Moon is at its furthest from the Earth - the Moon's apogee. The Moon represents the feminine and all its attributes, so Black Moon Lilith might represent, rather than all the best of "the feminine", i.e. grace, compassion, caring etc. perhaps the more superficial, worldly side of feminine. If that were so, then an artist with this point linked their personal planets could be particularly drawn to that side of "the feminine".

Kees van Dongen's natal Venus (planet of the arts) lies in Capricorn, earthy, business oriented Capricorn, and is in mildly helpful semi-sextile to Black Moon Lilith. For me this symbolises his use of superficial feminine images for commercial motives. This is further underlined by Saturn (ruler of Capricorn) in Pisces, semi-sextiling Sun/Mercury from the other side of Aquarius, and again echoing a purely business link to Piscean creativity. Those two links (to Venus in Capricorn and Saturn in Pisces) are very similar in flavour, I think.

This, from New York Times "The Moment" blog is relevant to those links. It refers to the mutual dislike that existed between van Dongen and Matisse, the more established painter and his contemporary.

"Indeed, Van Dongen enjoyed off-color pleasures that would make Matisse blush, from sketching prostitutes on the piers in Holland to portraiture work of society women in his later years. The joke is that, as a painter for hire, Van Dongen himself became the prostitute. But by refusing to do prim and proper landscapes, he changed the face of Expressionist Fauvism — inadvertently setting the tone for the lascivious dance between art and commerce yet to come."
A few examples of his work, more at Google Image:


Wisewebwoman said...

He doesn't do much for me, I have to admit, T. Never heard of him but looking at his work there is such a familiarity about them. I must have seen them at some point. Maybe at Musee d'Orsay. I find them more porn than erotica. Partic. the tango...

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ We'd probably never heard of him for a reason!

I think he was painting mainly for commercial gain rather than from an inner love of art....I could be entirely wrong, of course.

I quite like the painting of the woman reclining on a sofa (fully dressed), it seems quite different from the rest. And I can see why some might be attracted to the painting at the top (as was Himself) - I find the rest unattractive, and they don't do much for feminity.

anyjazz said...

Good post! Interesting how van Dongen emerges as a "commercial" artist. The most successful artists today are probably "commercial" artists.

Twilight said...

Anyjazz ~~~ Yes - well the most successful in all spheres, in today's definition of "successful"
are those who appeal to most people commercially, rather than emotionally. Commerce is all these days - maybe it always was. Money makes the world go around etc.

I guess a few artists and others do manage to reach the public in both ways, commercially and emotionally. They are the ones we remember. :-)

Jill Foster said...

Awesome article thanks : )

Twilight said...

Jill foster ~ You're welcome - thanks for your visit! :)