Le Moulin de la Galette sous la neige signed 'van Dongen.' (lower right) oil on canvas 54 x 65cm (21 1/4 x 25 9/16in). Painted circa 1904-05
PROVENANCE Private collection, Paris.
This work will be included in the critical catalogue of the work of Kees van Dongen being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute.
Le Moulin de la Galette sous la neige shows the view from van Dongen's studio above the Impasse Girardon in Montmartre. To the left, rising from the patchwork of snow-covered rooftops is the Moulin de la Galette itself, in whose famous gardens the demimonde of Montmartre entertained themselves. Van Dongen renders the expanse of wintry sky through textured brushwork and subdued tones of blue, yellow and mauve exploring the possibilities of the medium in this apparent emptiness. As with Monet's Houses of Parliament series, van Dongen uses the Moulin de la Galette as a motif rather than a specific location, and it becomes a familiar signifier which grounds the work amid an expressive exploration of atmosphere and environment. The relationship with Monet goes further: a contemporary critic, Carl Scharten, drew comparison between Monet's London series, which was exhibited at Durand-Ruel in June 1904, and van Dongen's Parisian cityscapes, noting that 'it was the great master Monet who had the deepest influence' on van Dongen who 'shows more impact from Monet than any other Dutch master.' (quoted in A. Hopmans (ed.), The Van Dongen Nobody Knows : Early Fauvist Drawings 1895-1912, exh. cat., Rotterdam, 1996, p.61).
Van Dongen's series of about thirty views of Paris and Normandy, including Le Moulin de la Galette, represents an impressively productive period for the young artist. They show him exploring and mastering the Impressionist form, creating the foundation on which he would build his later work. In blending the Neo-Impressionist explorations of colour with a more traditionally Impressionist tendency towards expressive and visible brushwork, he was moving towards his later signature style, a vibrant and dynamic application of colour characteristic of the Fauves.