Raoul Dufy - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection Pierre Bourdouil, Domaine de Jau
    Galerie de Paris, Toulouse (acquired in 1961)
    Madame Hirst, Chateau de Cazals
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    The following selection of nine masterworks by Raoul Dufy, previously housed in the same private collection since their acquisition by the present owner nearly thirty years ago, showcases the French painter’s lifelong homage to the joy and color of life. In each of these works, the eternally carefree and uplifting nature of Dufy’s inimitable style is evident, and together, the following selection of works serves as a testament to the taste with which they were collected by the present owner. Though Dufy interacted with and was influenced by the contemporaneous currents in art, including Fauvism and Cubism, he maintained his independence as an artist and forged his own path to develop an aesthetic that is distinctly, and enduringly, his own. His entire oeuvre can be viewed as an aspiration towards light, and his serenely painted renderings of nature and people are imbued with irony, grandeur and wit. Characterized by the artist’s love for all that is vibrant in life, the works in this impressive group span his influential career and demonstrate many of the themes Dufy explored with his graceful, poetic charm. Reflecting on his relationship with these exceptional works, the present owner explained: "Dufy has allowed me to uncover the true meaning of happiness, and has instilled in me a desire and capacity to transform any vision of the world into terrestrial joy."

    Painted in 1906 at the height of his Fauve period, Le port du Havre showcases Dufy’s lifelong love of the sea and his distinct use of color. Born in Le Havre, the Normandy port town depicted in the present work, Dufy owed his love of the sea to the city where he spent all of his childhood and adolescence. The years of 1906-07 saw a period of intense experimentation for Dufy when he first coined his theory ‘couleur-lumière’, which he would apply to his entire oeuvre: “I was spontaneously led towards what was to become my real preoccupation. I had discovered a system, whose theory was this: to follow the light of the sun is a waste of time. Light in painting is something completely different: it is a light distributed throughout the composition, a ‘couleur-lumière’” (the artist, quoted in Dora Perez-Tibi, Dufy, New York, 1989, p. 24). In the summer of 1906, Dufy worked alongside Albert Marquet, one of the original Fauves, in the seaside towns of Le Havre, Trouville and Honfleur. Marquet guided the artist during these months as Dufy experimented with color to depict a departure from reality, using it in an expressive, rather than descriptive, technique. The rich chromatism that Dufy developed during this period is evident in Le port du Havre in the bright green, orange and purple hues that highlight the boats and the windows of the portside buildings. Though Dufy’s Fauve period was brief, spanning only the years of 1906-07, the artist retained the stylistic qualities that he learned during this time, such as the paring down of subjects and his taste for color, applying them to his work throughout his career.

    In Paris, two retrospectives in 1907 of cubist painter Paul Cézanne’s work, one at the Salon d’Automne and the other at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, inspired many artists of the time, including Dufy, to explore the principles central to Cézanne - the use of perspective and the visual representation of space on a flat surface. Believing the Euclidean perspective inherited from the Renaissance to be too mathematical and inflexible, Dufy explained: “Might it not be interesting to return, in order to take it a step further, to the study of perspective as conditioned by the specific demands of the painting, which I would call the moral perspective in contrast with the other one?” (the artist, quoted in Dora Perez-Tibi, Dufy, New York, 1989, p. 36). Picasso and Braque, amongst others, tackled this same question, but the major differentiating aesthetic of Dufy’s investigation was his loyalty to the character of the forms he depicted. Inspired by Cézanne’s method of conveying space and volumes, Dufy juxtaposed planes parallel to the surface of the canvas in order to create a tiered representation of form. In Le jardin des plantes, 1909, the dense composition is created by the interplay of the strong vertical lines of the trees and the geometric design of the architectural forms. Each element is carefully placed and staggered such that the composition can be read coherently, highlighting Dufy’s focus on the relationship of each element to those surrounding it: “We have the tree, the bench, the house, but what interests me, the most difficult thing, is what surrounds these objects. How are we to hold everything together? Nobody has done it like Cézanne: what lies between his apples is just as beautiful and significant as the apples themselves” (the artist, quoted in Dora Perez-Tibi, Dufy, New York, 1989, pp. 40-41).

    The theme of the regatta first appeared in Dufy’s work in 1907, and would appear time and time again throughout his practice, set against a backdrop of different towns across France and England. Deauville held a particular fascination for Dufy, hosting a plethora of festivities including horse races, regattas, and social gatherings at the Casino, which Dufy depicted in varying combinations of vibrant colors and dynamic compositions. Dufy considered the sea a backdrop for activities and lively spectacles, and the ultimate location to observe the effects of light: “Unhappy the man who lives in a climate far from the sea, or unfed by the sparkling waters of a river! … The painter constantly needs to be able to see a certain quality of light, a flickering, an airy palpitation bathing what he sees” (the artist, quoted in Dora Perez-Tibi, Dufy, New York, 1989 p. 158). In Régates à Deauville, painted in 1934, sailboats with billowing crescent sails, bathed in light, race by grand buildings on the quai on the far side of the shore. The horizontal brushstrokes of the expressive sea and sky enhance the sense of movement as the boats enter the composition at the left and then pass by the viewer in our implied position as spectator. Detail is sacrificed in favor of broad strokes that capture the general impression of the scene, allowing one to be easily immersed into the light-hearted activities. Similarly, horse races and equestrian events served as an equally colorful and dynamic festivity for Dufy to capture. The artist delighted in attending the races at Deauville, Longchamp, Epsom, and Ascot, among others, studying the horses and jockeys in action and the spirited crowd of spectators. In Chevaux, jockeys et élégantes, painted in 1950, horses and elegant patrons are set against a brilliant green lawn beneath a bright blue sky. This composition, teeming with action, is interspersed with evocative and playful details that convey the spirit of the occasion, such as a woman’s parasol and a jockey’s flashy outfit.

    In June of 1936, Dufy was commissioned to paint a monumental decoration for the semi-circular smoking room and bar of the new theatre at the Palais de Chaillot, erected for the imminent Exposition Internationale of 1937 held in Paris. Dufy created many studies for the commission before it was finally installed in 1940, working through the piece in ink, watercolor and gouache on paper. In the first iteration, Dufy arranged the three central river nymphs in a pyramid to avoid the traditional representation of the Three Graces. This original arrangement is visible in Étude pour le bar du Palais de Chaillot, executed in 1937, with the Seine standing in the middle and Oise and Marne reclining at her feet, but Dufy eventually posed the three central figures standing, holding hands. The final version of the composition, titled The Seine, the Oise and the Marne, is intended to be read from right to left, and many of the narrative elements are also evident in this earlier study. In the right panel of the finished product, Dufy depicted the Eiffel Tower, the Tuileries Gardens and the Seine flowing through the countryside and into the distance, to the city of Rouen. The left panel depicts a landscape of Dufy’s native Normandy that is composed of both real and imaginary elements, including the port of Le Havre, a castle set in a grove of apple trees, and a rainbow and rain clouds overhead, typical of Normandy’s ever-changing climate.

    Le grand orchestre and Hommage à Bach, each executed circa 1946, showcase Dufy’s unwavering passion for music, which he inherited from his father, an amateur musician and organ player, who inspired a passion for music in all of his children from an early age. In Dufy’s representations of musicians, compositions are transposed into pure musicality, reflecting his deep understanding and appreciation for this form of art, so much so that his friend Pablo Casals told him: “I cannot tell what piece your orchestra is playing, but I know which key it is written in” (Pablo Casals, quoted in Dora Perez-Tibi, Dufy, New York, 1989, p. 292). In Le grand orchestre, the composition, flanked by the theater’s wings and centered by the impressive chandelier overhead, appears to be floating on a sumptuous yellow surface that inhabits the entire canvas. The simplified forms of the audience, musicians and instruments evoke musical notes on a staff and convey a palpable sense of rhythm across the work. Hommage à Bach belongs to a series of homages to great composers, such as Mozart, Debussy and Bach, as in the present lot, dating to the last ten years of Dufy’s life. Inspired by the iconography of classical music, Hommage à Bach is a celebration of the composer as well as music itself. A flute, the artist’s palette, a violin, a shell and a trumpet are all gathered at the lower center of the composition below a plaque of Bach’s name. In the upper part of the composition, set against a deep blue sky and fluffy clouds, lies a triumphal arch, a flying figure that harkens back to maritime scenes, and a boat sailing into the distance, representing the composer’s eternal fame and accomplishment.

    Nu dans l'atelier de la place Arago à Perpignan, from the same year, 1946, belongs to a series of nudes depicted in Dufy’s study, begun decades prior in 1909. Though this subject did not play a major role in Dufy’s oeuvre, it served as a means of uniting two traditional themes conceived in a distinctly modern aesthetic - the nude and the artist’s studio - and marked the development of his style as he returned to this model throughout his career. The studio acted as a representation of the mental space in which the artist’s work occurred, and, fittingly, the scene depicted in Nu dans l'atelier de la place Arago à Perpignan is composed of bright colors and is bathed in light from the large window at the left side of the composition. A tenderly portrayed, relaxed woman reclines on a chaise-lounge at the center, while the easel to her right holds an unfinished painting, suggestive of the artist’s presence in the room. The window overlooking the town visually increases the dimensions of the studio, endowing it with an airy and spacious feeling characteristic of Dufy’s interiors, and his studio in the Place Arago in Perpignan, where he worked from 1946-51, depicted in the present work, is the apotheosis of this theme.

    Dufy visited Venice on two occasions in his life, first in 1938, and again toward the end of his life in 1952 when he was invited to exhibit at the Biennale. The artist’s trips to Venice inspired poetic evocations of the city, and during his second stay in 1952 he created a number of watercolors from his balcony of the Gritti Palace overlooking the Grand Canal, including Arlequin à Venise. Whereas his works from his first visit in 1938 were primarily representations of the city’s architecture, mostly void of human figures, the composition of Arlequin à Venise is dominated by a jovial Harlequin posed in the middle of the Piazza San Marco in front of the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. The scale of the buildings relative to the Harlequin evoke a dream-like effect, heightened by the expressionistic brushstrokes and delicate palette. The Harlequin appears in Dufy’s oeuvre on numerous occasions in both Italian and French settings, consistently outfitted in his characteristic costume and often accompanied by a musical instrument. Across his representations of Venice, Dufy skillfully captured the particular, elusive light of Venice with a myriad of blue and yellow hues, a testament to his continued gift for and fascination with color.

  • Artist Biography

    Raoul Dufy

    French • 1877 - 1953

    Born in 1877 in Le Havre, Raoul Dufy produced a large body of work through the art of painting, drawing, printmaking and textile design as well as by creating woodcuts and ceramics. A leading member of the Fauvist group of artists, Dufy was heavily influenced by Paul Cézanne after encountering his work in 1907. He continued to follow the Cubist movement until 1915 when his artistic language truly developed and matured. 

    Dufy is known for his colorful series of works depicting leisure activities and landscapes. He revisited certain themes during his lifetime, including those from the French Riviera, opera, seaside, sailing regattas, horse racing and musical events. As Gertrude Stein once admirably said, "Raoul Dufy is pleasure itself." The joy and lightness conveyed throughout Dufy's work are not only due to the subject matter but the artist's distinct style and exceptional use of color. Dufy was often considered a follower of the two French eighteenth-century artists Jean-Antoine Watteau and Jean-Honoré Fragonard. In 1952, Dufy went on to win the International Grand Prix for painting with his commission for the 26th Venice Biennale.

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Property from a Private French Collector


Nu dans l'atelier de la place Arago à Perpignan

signed "Raoul Dufy" lower right
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 31 7/8 in. (65 x 81 cm.)
Painted circa 1946, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity dated November 14, 2013.

Fanny Guillon-Laffaille has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this work, which will be included in her forthcoming second supplement to the Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings currently in preparation.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 14 November 2018