Portrait of Guus Preitinger, the Artist’s Wife, 1910

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)

  • Oil on Canvas, 146 x 114 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam*


Hand on hip Augusta (Guus) van Dongen-Preitinger gazes provocatively at her husband. Her bright blue dress and light skin contrast with the dark purple coat and scarlet background. Kees van Dongen used green to represent the shadows on Guus’ arms and neck. This daring combination of large areas of colour is characteristic of Fauvism. The artists from this movement, who never presented themselves as a group, however, received their name during the Paris Salon des Indépendants in 1905. There Henri Matisse and André Derain exhibited landscapes in garish colours, which earned them the name ‘fauves’ (wild ones).

*Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, purchased with the assistance of the BankGiro Loterij.

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The Fauves endeavoured to work instinctively and consciously gave their paintings a ‘primitive’ appearance. They drew their inspiration from such sources as the work of Paul Gauguin, and derived their technique of bright colours and thick, roughly applied paint from artists like Vincent van Gogh. Although the Fauves rejected the traditional manner of painting prescribed by the Academy, some gradually chose to adopt a more subdued approach. Van Dongen’s portrait of Guus is an example of this.

Not for sale

The artist probably painted his wife in his Paris studio. This was in the neighbourhood of the Folies-Bergères, where he and other Fauves drew a great deal of inspiration for their paintings. Van Dongen was very attached to the portrait. He exhibited the work in 1911, under the title La robe bleu, but refused to sell it. When the canvas was exhibited in the Grafton Galleries in London a year later, it was not for sale either. One of Van Dongen’s own paintings shows the work in the hall of his house.

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