The scent of lilacs imprints an olfactory memory forever. Lilacs With Cup of Milk (cover) stimulates this corner of the brain: the painting releases remembrances of that lasting fragrance and the accompanying promise of warm spring sunshine that follows a wicked winter. Cornelis Theodorus Maria (Kees) van Dongen (1877-1968) painted his version of lilacs in 1909, while working in his Parisian studio across from the Folies-Bergère. Born in the Netherlands near the river Maas, the son of a brewer, van Dongen outgrew his home, once he had tasted the worldly delights that Rotterdam, and then Paris, had to offer. The painter, after several years of odd jobs, libertine license, and poverty, became popular in the French capital, and counted among his friends the avant-garde artists Pablo Picasso (whose studio was next door to van Dongen's in the Bateau-Lavoir), André Derain, and Maurice de Vlaminck. In 1904, van Dongen exhibited his works at the Galerie Vollard—his first one-man show, held at the venue that had recently featured the paintings of Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse ( JAMA cover, August 11, 2010).
Torpy JM. Lilacs With Cup of Milk. JAMA. 2011;305(15):1516. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.342