Born in the Netherlands, Kees van Dongen attended the Royal Academy of Arts in Rotterdam, and moved to Paris in 1897. He lived in the Montmartre district and worked as a house painter and illustrator for satirical magazines.
He met Henri Matisse in his first years in Paris, and adopted the Fauve style of painting in bright colors and broad strokes. He exhibited with the Fauves in their famous 1905 exhibition. Van Dongen's paintings of women, dancers and nudes are composed of rich, vivid colors and bold outlines. The simplified forms and emotional distortions were used to express his passionate involvement with contemporary life in Paris.
In 1908, Van Dongen was invited to join the German Expressionist group Die Brucke, and his expressionist portraits were extremely popular throughout continental Europe through the war years.
After 1918, Van Dongen became a popular society painter. His style became simpler and more realistic, although he continued to use vivid colors in his portraits.