This painting dates from a period when the artist’s Fauve paintings—mostly of sensuous women described in vibrant colour and rich impasto—met with sufficient commercial success in Paris (where he had settled in 1899) to allow him to travel to Spain and Morocco. Van Dongen’s Mediterranean experience renewed his palette, which became infused with saturated, harmonious hues. A stunning display of colour was often inspired by the decorative textile patterns that figured more and more in his compositions. This continued allegiance to colour as the expressive force in his paintings distanced the ambitious Van Dongen—along with Matisse—from the Cubists, who were increasingly taking centre stage in the Parisian avant-garde art world. In Parakeet, the strong presence of the diagonal pattern of the tiles (or tablecloth) and the vertical and horizontal lines of the birdcage, parallel to the picture plane, is unusual, and perhaps unique, in Van Dongen’s oeuvre. From the grid of the cage, a vibrant spot of “Fauve” colour emerges as the bird pops its head out of the linear framework in which it is confined, set off by the gentle folds of blue and white fabric behind.
© Estate of Kees Van Dongen / SOCAN (2020)