© collection Gilbert Hamel
© Gilbert Hamel - Ville de Deauville

The "king" of the Boardwalk

In 1913, Van Dongen and his family spent their first summer in Deauville. The artist discovered and adopted the seaside city during the Roaring Twenties era. He could be found watching the races, on the beach, and at the Bar du Soleil. His slender silhouette, white beard and pipe made him easily recognizable among the other celebrities dwelling in Deauville at the time.

Born in Holland, Kees Van Dongen definitely settled in Paris in 1900. In 1905, as a friend of Derain and Vlaminck, he shared the adventures of the Fauve painters. He settled in Montmartre at the Bateau-Lavoir and joined Picasso’s group, alongside Salmon, Apollinaire, Dorgelès, and Mac Orlan. His portraits soon made him famous and he started receiving a large number of commissions, namely a commission from a Le Havre-based ship-owner which brought the famous painter to the coasts of Normandy around 1910.
In 1920, during his first stays in Deauville, Van Dongen worked with fashion designer Paul Poiret to create a book, simply entitled "Deauville". Paul Poiret wrote the texts, while Van Dongen illustrated the book with a number of watercolors representing the casino, La Potinière, the races, the beach and its elegantly dressed ladies. A first series of his watercolors were exposed in Paris in 1920. Deauville, a book which is now very sought after by book collectors was published in 1931, embellished with a second series of watercolors painted in 1929. In March of 1921, Van Dongen illustrated his vision of Deauville once again with an exhibition of 84 canvases at the Bernheim-Jeune gallery. After the war in 1947, he returned to Deauville where he became once again one of the city’s main figures. He was often photographed for celebrity magazines. In 1955, he designed a poster for the White Gala and a touristic poster to promote Deauville. At the beginning of the 1960’s, over the age of 80, Van Dongen returned to Deauville every year spending his summers at the Hotel Normandy where he checked in until 1963.

“Van Dongen is the slow and nonchalant one with the gleaming eyes. If I were to name him, I would call him Zigomar or Glouglou”…
Jacques-Henri Lartigue, journal, February 1923.

“In Le Havre, a Dutch ship owner wanted me to pain his portrait. I went to his house; I painted his portrait and then took a stroll along the coast, which was very pretty, in Honfleur, and Trouville. Deauville suited me like a glove. I found my regular clientele and it reminded me of Holland. Because of the light”
Van Dongen.
Interview with Henri Perruchot, Les Nouvelles littéraires, artistiques et scientifiques, August 7th 1958