French artist Raoul Dufy is known for his joyful, bright depictions of the French Riviera and its activities. Spanning 60 years, Dufy's practice involved painting, printmaking, textile and production design.Read More
Dufy was born in 1877 in Le Havre, Normandy, and grew up in a large family with eight siblings. At age 18, he began attending evening classes for painting at Le Havre's École des Beaux-Arts, where he was mentored by French painter Charles Lhuillier.
In 1900, Dufy was awarded a scholarship to study at the École Nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He received recognition and success for his work from early in his career. In 1901, he exhibited at the Salon des Artistes français, and later at the Salon des Indépendants in 1903. Dufy also regularly exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in Paris. In 1952, he was awarded the International Grand Prize for Painting at the 26th Venice Biennale.
Dufy died in 1953 in Forcalquier, leaving thousands of paintings, illustrations, ceramics, and textiles.
Dufy was inspired by the artists of modernity, often painting landscapes and scenes of everyday life. During his studies, his works were greatly influenced by Impressionists such as Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. This sensibility can be seen in Fin de journée au Havre (1901), a scene of workers returning home at sunset, in which Dufy captures the figures and light in thick strokes of paint, leaving out intricate details in favour of mood and atmosphere.
In 1905, Dufy was introduced to Henri Matisse's work Luxe, Calme et Volupté (1904), which directed the artist's practice towards Fauvism, a style characterised by bold lines and vibrant colours. Dufy's Jeanne with Flowers (1907) reflects Matisse's fauvist influence, demonstrating experimentation with colour and form, applying vibrant paints in block forms, coupled with definitive brush strokes.
The artist was also affected by the subtler techniques of Paul Cézanne in a significant retrospective in 1907. Cézanne's impact on Dufy's paintings is evidenced in works such as La Dame en rose (1912), which merges vivid colour with clear lines, and Trees at Estaque (1908), a more abstracted piece that touches upon elements of Cubism.
In the 1910s, Dufy became interested in the potential of decorative art, and produced woodcut prints to accompany poetry written by his contemporaries—notably Guillaume Apollinaire's 1911 poetic album Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d'Orphée, for which Dufy created woodcut illustrations of animal and human figures.
Dufy also designed textiles in collaboration with designers including French fashion designer Paul Poiret. Between 1912 and 1930, Dufy created fabrics for Lyon-based textile company Bianchini Férier, producing around 4000 designs over this period. He had worked on several textiles with floral motifs, yet continued to stay true to his woodcut style with clear graphic lines. In 1920, Dufy worked on the decor for the ballet Le Boeuf sur le toit.
Following the First World War, Dufy's style became more light and lively, and the artist often depicted joyful, bright scenes of the French Riviera's boating culture, orchestras, and race courses. In contrast to Dufy's earlier fauvist and impressionistic style, his post-war paintings feature light washes of colour, foregrounded by skeletal illustrations likened to Baroque and cubist paintings or stenography.
In Window opening on Nice (1928), Dufy paints the interior of a room overlooking the coast, outlining the room's furniture and structural elements in energetic strokes of flat, vivid blues. The lively beach, populated with figures and boats, and dolphins, is visible in the background.
Dufy completed his largest work La Fée Électricité for the 1937 International Exposition in Paris. Celebrating the invention of electricity, the 600 m2 fresco unfolds the electricity's history across a timeline from left to right. Playing with the polarities of mythology and science, Dufy depicted Olympian gods alongside the researchers who contributed to the development of electricity.
Raoul Dufy has held solo exhibitions at the Museum of Art and History, Geneva (1952); Tate Britain, London (1954); and Villa Médicis, Rome (1996). Other exhibitions include Women's Faces, Helene Bailly Gallery, Paris (2021); Raoul Dufy, A Collection, Bailly Gallery, Geneva (2021); and Eternal Seasons: Part I 春華秋實 at Lévy Gorvy, Hong Kong (2021).
Arianna Mercado | Ocula | 2021