Created in 1931, Kees Van Dongen's Deauville series captures the vibrant life of the famous French seaside resort through colourful pochoir prints. The series includes artworks such as La Plage and Le Restaurant, showcasing the opulence and leisure of Deauville's elite.

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Meaning & Analysis

Kees Van Dongen’s Deauville series, created in 1931, is a vivid exploration of the opulent lifestyle associated with the French seaside resort of Deauville. Van Dongen, a Dutch-French painter known for his bold use of colour and fluid lines, employs the pochoir technique in this series to highlight the leisure and sophistication of Deauville’s elite. The pochoir method, which involves the application of colour through stencils, allowed Van Dongen to achieve a high degree of precision and vibrancy in these prints.

The series comprises five artworks: La Plage, Le Restaurant, La Salle De Baccarat, Le Grand Prix De Normandie, and La Gala De Costume De Bain. Each print encapsulates a different aspect of Deauville’s high society. For example, La Plage depicts the bustling activity and relaxed atmosphere of the beach, with figures engaging in various leisurely activities against a backdrop of sun and sea. Van Dongen’s use of bold, contrasting colours and fluid lines brings the scene to life, capturing the energy and spirit of the place.

Le Restaurant showcases an elegant dining scene. The composition highlights the interactions between the diners, emphasising their stylish attire and the sophisticated ambiance of the restaurant. Similarly, La Salle De Baccarat presents a scene of refined leisure, with figures engrossed in conversation and games, highlighting the social aspect of Deauville’s allure.

Le Grand Prix De Normandie and La Gala De Costume De Bain further underscore the glamour associated with Deauville. The former captures the excitement and grandeur of the horse racing event, a key social gathering in the resort’s calendar, while the latter depicts a fashionable gala, with attendees dressed in elaborate costumes, reflecting the elegance that Deauville is renowned for.

Van Dongen’s Deauville series reflects the artist’s keen observation of social dynamics and his ability to convey an aspirational sense of place through his distinctive style. The series stands as a testament to Van Dongen’s unique approach to capturing the spirit of an era, making it a significant addition to his oeuvre and an important representation of early 20th century leisure culture.