Raoul Dufy (3
June 1877 – 23 March 1953) was a French Fauvist painter,
brother of Jean Dufy. He developed a colorful, decorative
style that became fashionable for designs of ceramics and
textiles, as well as decorative schemes for public
buildings. He is noted for scenes of open-air social events.
He was also a draftsman, printmaker, book illustrator,
Scenic designer, a designer of furniture, and a planner of
Raoul Dufy was born into a large family at Le Havre, in
Normandy. He left school at the age of fourteen to work in a
coffee-importing company. In 1895, when he was 18, he
started taking evening classes in art at Le Havre's École
des Beaux-Arts (municipal art school). The classes were
taught by Charles Lhuillier, who had been, forty years
earlier, a student of the French portrait-painter, Ingres.
There, Dufy met Raymond Lecourt and Othon Friesz with whom
he later shared a studio in Montmartre and to whom he
remained a lifelong friend. During this period, Dufy painted
mostly Norman landscapes in watercolors.
In 1900, after a year of military service, Raoul Dufy won
a scholarship to the École nationale supérieure des
Beaux-Arts in Paris, where again he crossed paths with Othon
Friesz. (He was there when Georges Braque also was
studying.) He concentrated on improving his drawing skills.
The impressionist landscape painters, such as Claude Monet
and Camille Pissarro, influenced Dufy profoundly. His first
exhibition (at the Exhibition of French Artists) took place
in 1901. Introduced to Berthe Weill in 1902, Dufy showed his
work in her gallery. Then he exhibited again in 1903 at the
Salon des Independants. A boost to his confidence: the
painter, Maurice Denis, bought one of his paintings. Dufy
continued to paint, often in the vicinity of Le Havre, and,
in particular, on the beach at Sainte-Adresse, made famous
by Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet. In 1904, with his friend,
Albert Marquet, he worked in Fecamp on the English Channel
Henri Matisse's Luxe, Calme et Volupté, which Dufy saw at
the Salon des Indépendants in 1905, was a revelation to the
young artist, and it directed his interests towards Fauvism.
Les Fauves (the wild beasts) emphasized bright color and
bold contours in their work. Dufy's painting reflected this
aesthetic until about 1909, when contact with the work of
Paul Cézanne led him to adopt a somewhat subtler technique.
It was not until 1920, however, after he had flirted briefly
with yet another style, cubism, that Dufy developed his own
distinctive approach. It involved skeletal structures,
arranged with foreshortened perspective, and the use of thin
washes of color applied quickly, in a manner that came to be
known as stenographic.
Dufy's cheerful oils and watercolors depict events of the
time period, including yachting scenes, sparkling views of
the French Riviera, chic parties, and musical events. The
optimistic, fashionably decorative, and illustrative nature
of much of his work has meant that his output has been less
highly valued critically than the works of artists who have
addressed a wider range of social concerns.
Dufy completed one of the largest paintings ever
contemplated, a huge and immensely popular ode to
electricity, the fresco La Fée Electricité for the 1937
Exposition Internationale in Paris.
Dufy also acquired a reputation as an illustrator and as
a commercial artist. He painted murals for public buildings;
he also produced a huge number of tapestries and ceramic
designs. His plates appear in books by Guillaume Apollinaire,
Stéphane Mallarmé, and André Gide.
In 1909, Raoul Dufy was commissioned by Paul Poiret to
design stationery for the house, and after 1912 designed
textile patterns for Bianchini-Ferier used in Poiret's and
In the late 1940s and early 1950s Dufy exhibited at the
annual Salon des Tuileries in Paris. By 1950, his hands were
struck with rheumatoid arthritis and his ability to paint
diminished, as he has to fasten the brush to his hand. In
April he went to Boston to undergo an experimental treatment
with cortisone and corticotropin, based on the work of
Philip S. Hench. It proved successful, and some of his next
works were dedicated to the doctors and researchers in the
United States. In 1952 he received the grand prize for
painting in the 26th Venice Biennale. Dufy died at
Forcalquier, France, on 23 March 1953, of intestinal
bleeding, which is a likely result of his continuous
treatment. He was buried near Matisse in the Cimiez
Monastery Cemetery in Cimiez, a suburb of the city of Nice.
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