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Souvenir of the Russian Opera SeasonEnlarge image

Souvenir of the Russian Opera Season, 1909

Kees Van Dongen
Dutch, French, 1877 - 1968
oil on canvas
54.2 x 65 cm
Purchased 1966
National Gallery of Canada (no. 14984)
© Estate of Kees Van Dongen / SODRAC (2013)

Kees (Cornelis) van Dongen was born in the village of Delfshaven near Rotterdam, where his father owned two small factories that dried grain and spices from Indonesia. He lived in Paris from 1897 and became a French citizen in 1929. "Souvenir of the Russian Opera Season" portrays a scene from "Cléopâtre", performed to critical acclaim by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes in Paris in June 1909. The reclining figure is Ida Rubenstein in the title role, while the dancer with outstretched arms is the celebrated Anna Pavlova, who holds one of the coloured veils unwrapped from Cleopatra's body just prior to her seduction of a Prince.

Provenance 

1909–1919/04
Daniel Henry Kahnweiler (1884–1979), Paris, France, purchased from Kees Van Dongen [1]

1919/04–still in 1922
Galerie Flechtheim (Alfred Flechtheim, 1878–1937) Düsseldorf, Germany, purchased from Daniel Henry Kahnweiler [2]

1936/02/22
in auction of “Tableaux modernes” at Hotel Drouot, Paris, France, February 22, 1936, lot. no. 106 [3]

by 1939/04–
Bernard Poissonnier, Paris, France [4]

Galerie Rive Gauche, Paris, France [5]

–1962/11/9

Galerie Motte, Geneva, Switzerland [6]

1962/11/9 – 1966/12
Galerie Dubourg (Jacques Dubourg), Paris, France [7]

1966/12
National Gallery of Canada, purchased from Galerie Jacques Dubourg [8]

Notes 

[1]Art dealerDaniel Henry Kahnweiler wrote to the NGC's research curator Myron Laskin Jr.: “The picture by von Dongen (…) has belonged to me. I bought it from Van Dongen in 1909 with two others of the same ballet and it had my number 302. It was lent in May to the “Rheinischer Kunstsalon” at Cologne (Feldmann), a gallery, which disappeared after the first war. It went in April 1919 to the gallery Alfred Flechtheim at Düsseldorf. I do not know to whom they sold it.” [letter, dated April 20, 1971, NGC curatorial file].

[2] See note [1]. In 1922, Flechtheim lent the painting to two exhibitions in Germany. It was shown by the Kestner Society of Hanover as Le Ballet Russe [“48. Sonderausstellung Meisterwerke Deutscher Kunst aus Hannoverschem Privatbesitz.” Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, February 5 to March 1, 1922, cat. no. 41.] A label of the Kestner-Society with the number 1449 (or 1749) can be found on the stretcher of the painting. From Hanover the work went to a show organised by the Hansa-Werkstätten in Hamburg [letter from the Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover, Germany, dated November 14, 1969, to Myron Laskin Jr., NGC curatorial file].

[3] According to the catalogue, the painting came from the possession of an anonymous lady [“appartenant de Madame X…”]. However, it is common practice in the art business that pseudonyms of this kind are used by dealer conglomerates.

[4] Souvenir of the Russian Opera Season was included in an exhibition at the Musée des Art Décoratifs, Paris, in 1939. The catalogue mentions Bernard Poissonnier as lender of the painting [“Ballets Russes de Diaghilew.” Musée des Art Décoratifs, Paris, April/May 1939, cat. no. 358]. Poissonnier was a Parisian collector of French Modern Art, who, among others, owned works by Appollinaire, Gris and Picasso.

[5] The painting carries a stamp by the Galerie Rive Gauche, Paris, on the stretcher. In 1969, R.A. Augustinci of the Galerie Rive Gauche informed Myron Laskin Jr. that he remembered the painting passing through his hands more than twenty years ago, but neither recalled where he had acquired it, nor to whom he had sold it [letter, dated March 24, 1969, NGC curatorial file].

[6] The painting is included in the sales catalogue of the Galerie Motte [“Tableaux Modernes.”Galerie Motte, Geneva, November 5–9, 1962, lot no. 259].

[7] Jacques Dubourg likely acquired the painting at the sale of the Galerie Motte, in November 1962, where he acted as an assistant to Mme Motte [see note 5]. In 1965, Souvenir of the Russian Opera Season was shown in an exhibition in Houston, Texas [“The Heroic Years. Paris 1908–1914.”Museum of Fine Arts]. The catalogue of this exhibition was never completed nor published, but the archives of the Houston Art Museum records the Galerie Jacques Dubourg, Paris, as the lender of the work [letter to Myron Laskin Jr., dated March 5, 1970, by C. Cabanné Smith of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, NGC curatorial file].

[8] Accession Log [NGC curatorial file].

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