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Raoul Dufy - Le retour des régates, Deauville

Raoul Dufy

Le retour des régates, Deauville

Oil on canvas: 18.4(h) x 43.3(w) in / 46.7(h) x 109.9(w) cm
Signed, inscribed and dated lower left: Deauville / Raoul Dufy 1933

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Le Havre 1877 - 1953 Forcalquier

Ref: BY 170


Le retour des régates, Deauville





Signed, inscribed and dated lower left: Deauville /Raoul Dufy 1933

Oil on canvas: 18 3/8 x 43¼ in / 46.7 x 109.9 cm

Frame size: 25½ x 50½ in / 64.8 x 128.3 cm



M Bignou Collection, by 1936

Perls Galleries, New York, no.3311

Christie’s New York, 8th May 2002, lot 300

Kunsthandel Frans Jacobs, Amsterdam;

from whom acquired on 24th October 2002 by a private collector, The Netherlands



Toledo, The Toledo Museum of Art, European Section of the Thirty Third Carnegie International Exhibition of Paintings, 1st March-19th April 1936, no.78



Maurice Laffaille, Raoul Dufy: catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, vol. II, Geneva 1973, p.351, no.864, illus.


Raoul Dufy was influenced both by the Fauves and the German Expressionists in his use of colour as an emotional medium divorced from a strict adherence to appearances. Slavish truth to nature was less important than evoking a ‘shorthand of the essential’ through a poetic universe of emblems. Among his favourite themes were regattas and seaside views.


This work is among Dufy’s largest and most impressive regatta paintings, its panoramic format emphasizing its joyous sense of freedom. Born in Le Havre, Dufy, like his fellow-Norman Claude Monet, was exhilarated by the sea and the activities of boats. He commented: ‘Unhappy the man who lives in a climate far from the sea, or unfed by the sparkling waters of a river!...The painter needs to be able to see a certain quality of light, a flickering, an airy palpitation bathing what he sees’[1].


Deauville by the 1930s was a summer playground of the rich and famous, including Hollywood stars. Coco Chanel opened her first boutique there in 1913, ushering in an era of yachting chic dominated by dazzling white and blue. Dufy’s paintings, with their playful calligraphy outlining boats and buildings and intense colours, chime with this exuberant modern world. The many shades of blue in this work, from duck-egg to turquoise to sapphire, underline his fascination with the colour. He explained: ‘Blue is the only colour which keeps its own individuality across the spectrum. Take blue with its different nuances, from the darkest to the lightest; it will always be blue, whereas yellow darkens in shadow and fades out in lighter parts, dark red becomes brown and when diluted with white, it isn’t red any more but another colour: pink[2]. In this regatta scene, the blue of sea and sky is pierced by the bladelike white sails and given extra impact by the pulse of a red flag near the centre of the composition.


In 1936 Le retour des régates was selected for the prestigious Carnegie International Exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. Inaugurated in 1896 by the industrialist Andrew Carnegie, the annual exhibition aimed to present international trends in avant-garde art to the American public. 



Le Havre 1877 - 1953 Forcalquier



Raoul Dufy’s beginnings were marked by his curiosity towards art in general and his love for painting. In his leisure time from his work as a book-keeper he took evening courses at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Le Havre and constantly visited the museums. He formed a close friendship with another young artist, Othon Friesz, and both men were influenced by Eugène Boudin and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.


In 1900 Dufy joined Friesz in Paris, studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in the studio of Léon Bonnat and encountering the work of Claude Lorrain and the Impressionists. In 1902, the painter Maurice Delcourt introduced Dufy to Berthe Weil, who had a studio in rue Victor Massé. Here she organised exhibitions of avant-garde artists such as Marquet and Matisse. The presence of the Fauve painters at the 1905 Salon des Indépendents proved a revelation. Dufy was particularly impressed by Matisse’s Luxe, calme et volupté, adopting the Fauves’ glowing colours and sweeping brushstrokes in works such as Rue pavoisée, 1906 (Pompidou, Paris).


A visit to Munich in 1909 exposed Dufy to the work of the German Expressionists and the possibilities of wood engraving. The following year he made woodcuts to illustrate Guillaume Apollinaire’s Bestiaire ou cortège d’Orphée and in 1911 established with the fashion designer Paul Poiret La Petite Usine, a cloth-printing workshop in which Dufy produced watercolour designs for Bianchini-Férier textiles.


From the early 1920s Dufy developed his characteristic style, in which free, dynamic drawing is coupled with an arbitrary use of colour independent of line, creating a tremendous sense of joie de vivre. Slavish truth to nature was less important than evoking a ‘shorthand of the essential’ through a poetic universe of emblems. Favourite themes included regattas and seaside views bustling with people, and horse-racing. Dufy travelled in Italy, Morocco and southern France in the 1920s; in the 1930s he often stayed in England, where his work was highly regarded. 


Dufy’s first stage design was for the celebrated Le Boeuf sur le Toit (1920), with words by Jean Cocteau and music by Darius Milhaud. He produced designs for ceramics, tapestry cartoons and architectural decorations, notably the 600 sq. metre Electricity fairy (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris), made for the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne. Passionate about music, from 1942 Dufy made a series of orchestra paintings. Towards the end of his life he abandoned colour contrasts in favour of almost monochrome tonal painting in such works as Yellow console of the violin, 1949 (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto). Raoul Dufy died in Forcalquier, Basses-Alpes, on 23rd March 1953.


The work of Raoul Dufy is represented in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nice; the Hermitage, St Petersburg; Tate Modern, London; the Royal Collection, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.




[1] Dufy quoted in D Perez-Tibi, Dufy, New York 1989, p.158.

[2] Dufy quoted in P Courthion, Raoul Dufy, Geneva 1951, p.52.


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