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Raoul Dufy - Voiliers dans le port de Deauville

Raoul Dufy

Voiliers dans le port de Deauville

Oil on canvas: 23.6(h) x 28.7(w) in / 60(h) x 73(w) cm
Signed lower left: Raoul Dufy

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Le Havre 1877 - 1953 Forcalquier

Ref: BY 175


Voiliers dans le port de Deauville


Signed lower left: Raoul Dufy

Oil on canvas: 23 5/8 x 28¾ in / 60 x 73 cm

Frame size: 31 x 36 in / 78.7 x 91.4 cm

In a Louis XV style pastel carved and gilded frame


Painted circa 1935






Private collection, Paris, acquired after 1945;

by descent in January 1980 to a private collector, France


This work will be included in the second supplement to the Catalogue Raisonné de l’Oeuvre Peint de Raoul Dufy currently being prepared by Madame Fanny Guillon-Laffaille (Certificate no. P20-9564)



Like Claude Monet, Raoul Dufy grew up in the port of Le Havre and the Norman love of the sea was in his blood. Dufy commented: ‘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’[1].


In the 1920s and 30s Dufy made a brilliant series of regatta and seaside views focussing on fashionable Normandy resorts such as Deauville. Deauville and Trouville had been developed from the mid-nineteenth century by the Duc de Morny, half-brother of Emperor Napoleon III; Boudin portrayed the crinolined Parisian bon ton that flocked there. By the 1920s and 30s aristocrats mingled with Hollywood stars among the Deauville regatta crowds. Chanel opened her first salon in the town, taking inspiration from yachting style.


This painting exudes the fizzing colour, the excitement and modernity of the 1930s. Dufy’s dazzling calligraphic line, outlining buildings in burgundy and yacht hulls in blue and orange, is a reminder that he designed for the stage earlier in his career. He 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. 


The dense composition, with the town seen through a forest of masts, brims with Dufy’s delight in the medium of oil paint. Brightly-lit sails are expressed through rich licks of cream paint, while the distant town is a complex weave of blue and green overlaid with dabs of purple. Dufy expresses pure joie de vivre in this sparkling day on the Parisian Riviera.





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] Dora Perez-Tibi, Dufy, London 1989, p.158.


Other Works By
Raoul Dufy:

Raoul Dufy - Le retour des régates, Deauville