Kees Van Dongen

Souvenir of the Russian Opera Season


Depicting the Russian ballerinas Anna Pavlova and Ida Rubinstein dancing "Cléopâtre", Kees van Dongen's painting commemorates a key event in cultural history: the 1909 inaugural season of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets "Russes" in Paris. The artist loved the modern and the exotic in life and in art; the brilliant colours, stylized curves, and rhythmic composition of his painting evoke the sensual languor of the dance and the exuberance of night life in Paris.

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, acquired from Daniel Henry Kahnweiler [2]

Madeleine Angles Orosdi (1889–1949), Paris, France, offered for sale in auction Tableaux modernes at Hôtel Drouot, Paris, France, February 22, 1936, lot no. 106 [3]

by 1939/04–still in 1954
Bernard Poissonnier, Paris, France [4]

Galerie Rive Gauche, Paris, France [5]

Galerie Motte, Geneva, Switzerland [6]

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

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

[1] Art dealer Daniel Henry Kahnweiler wrote to the NGC’s Research Curator Myron Laskin, Jr.: “The picture by van Dongen, reproduced in your Bulletin of 11/1968 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 1912 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]. The painting was shown at Galerie Alfred Flechtheim in a 1919 exhibition on Van Dongen’s women [Kees van Dongen, Frauen. Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Düsseldorf, October 5-18, 1919, cat. no. 9 in the section devoted to Van Dongen's work, titled Russisches Ballett ‘Cleopatra’]. In 1922 Flechtheim lent the painting to two exhibitions in Germany. It was shown first by the Kestner Gesellschaft of Hanover [48. Sonderausstellung Meisterwerke Deutscher Kunst aus Hannoverschem Privatbesitz. Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover, February 5 to March 1, 1922, cat. no. 41, titled Le Ballet Russe]. A label of the Kestner Gesellschaft with the number 1749 can be found on the stretcher of the painting. From Hanover it went to a show on the work of Van Dongen organised by the Hansa Werkstätten in Hamburg [letter from the Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover, Germany, dated November 24, 1969, to Myron Laskin, Jr., NGC curatorial file]. The work was for sale at this time, as it was included on a price list that Flechtheim sent to the Kestner Gesellschaft on January 20, 1922 [NLA HA Dep. 100 Nr. 18, folder 130, Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv, Hanover].

[3] According to the auction catalogue, the painting came from the collection of an anonymous woman [“appartenant à Madame X…”]. The commissaire-priseur records for the auction indicate that “Madame X” was “Madame Angles Orosdi.” [Étude de maîtres Talon, Bonnefous, Pillet, Chevallier et Baudoin: minutes et dossiers de ventes (1808-1940), D.48E3 129 – Baudoin, janvier-mai 1936, Archives de Paris, Paris, France]. She is identifiable as Madeleine Angles Orosdi, daughter of well-known businessman and art collector Léon Orosdi.

[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].

The painting resurfaces in 1954 at the Diaghilev Exhibition of the Edinburgh Festival. The catalogue lists Bernard Poissonnier as lender of the painting [Richard Buckle, The Diaghilev Exhibition. From the Edinburgh Festival, 1954, The Observer, 1954, cat. No. 529]. Poissonnier was a Parisian collector of French modern art who owned works by Apollinaire, Gris and Picasso, among others.

[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, titled Ida Rubinstein et Anna Pavlona [sic] – Souvenir de la saison d’opéra russe (1909)].

[7] Jacques Dubourg likely acquired the painting in November 1962 at the sale of the Galerie Motte, where he acted as an assistant to Mme Motte [see note 6]. In 1965, the painting was shown in the exhibition The Heroic Years. Paris 1908–1914 in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. The catalogue of this exhibition was never completed nor published, but the archives of the 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].

-Research in progress-

Souvenir of the Russian Opera Season
oil on canvas
54.2 x 65 cm
Credit line
Purchased 1966
Accession number