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Biography

Dufy PortraitRaoul Dufy (1877–1953)

Raoul Dufy made his mark on the 20th Century as he helped to create a modern visual sensibility and perception, a way of seeing things after the First World War, which was different from the way they were ever seen before.

Born in Le Havre on June 3rd 1877 in a family which was to count nine children, Raoul Dufy soon showed some rare talent for drawing. Forced to earn a living at 14, he interrupted his studies to work in a coffee importing firm in the harbour of his native city and also attended night courses at the School of Fine Arts.

After his military service he went o Paris where he lived with Othon Friesz, who was also from Le Havre. There he studied under Léon Bonnat but found academic painting quite boring and preferred the works of Van Gogh, Gauguin and some Impressionist painters instead.

Impressionism represented in his view an ideal solution to what he wished to produce at the start of his career. From then on, Dufy engaged himself in a kind of permanent quest.

Impressionism was simply a step between 1900 and 1904. Then Dufy fell under the influence of the Fauves after being mesmerised by Matisse’s painting Luxe, Calme et Volupté. Still he only adhered to the Fauve movement during three years until 1909 after finding that he needed to instil more austerity and soberness in his works.

Cubism was apparently a new solution but was in opposition to his real motives. It however enabled him to discover Cézanne and after a trip to Munich his true personality started to blossom though the public was not immediately receptive to his works.

Dufy wanted to produce what he liked and accepted the offer of fashion designer Paul Poiret to make fabric designs. The Poiret dresses worn by elegant women of his time eventually led to his success.

Dufy was then much in demand and accepted an offer to work for the Bianchini-Ferrier textile firm from Lyons. Nevertheless, he did not give up painting and produced many interesting works between 1918 and 1940, the year this music-lover started to paint a series of philharmonic and chamber orchestras.

Dufy remained faithful to many themes- racecourses, regattas, his blue studio, nudes, beach scenes- during his career prolonging Monet’s original idea of series. He also painted black cargo-boats in an attempt to create light with black colour.