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 Jean Dufy  (1888 - 1964)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: painting-city scenes and musicians, porcelain decoration, theatre sets

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Ad Code: 2
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from Auction House Records.
Place de la Concorde
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

From LeHavre and an arts-oriented family of eleven children including the famous Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), Jean Dufy showed artistic ability from childhood.  Throughout his future career, his older brother, Raoul, encouraged him.  Jean not only did fine-art painting but painted theatre sets.  To earn money, he was a clerk for an overseas import business and even served as secretary on a transatlantic liner, La Savoie, which traveled between New York and Le Havre.

In these jobs, Dufy did much walking and observing around the port of Le Havre, and also became fascinated with modernist 'tradition breakers' such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. 

He became a student in Le Havre at the l'Ecole des Beaux Arts, and his teachers included Raoul and A.E. Othon Friesz.  When Raoul moved on to Paris, Jean Dufy dropped out of the Ecole in Le Havre to follow his brother "who remained his true master for the rest of his life." (Kodner)  However, between these moves, he also served in the military from 1910 to 1912.  For the next two years, living in Paris, he became associated with Cubist painters Picasso as well as Georges Braque and poet Guillame Apollinaire.

By 1914, he was exhibiting his early watercolors, "muted tones and somber browns, blues, and reds" mingling "with the hatching technique he inherited from Cézanne by way of his brother Raoul Dufy."  The venue was the Berthe Weill Gallery.  However, that same year, he was drafted for additional military service and was a soldier on horseback.  Being stationed throughout France, he painted many landscape scenes including in the Vosges region where he was treated for war wounds.

Because of this close association, Jean Dufy's work, much of it in ink and watercolor, is often compared to that of his brother.  Like Raoul, he chose Parisien subjects, "country scenes, circuses, horse races, stages and orchestras. . . . Raoul Dufy often dissected each of the elements that he used in his compositions, often with humor or tenderness, if not with acuteness.  Jean, on the other hand, was more sensitive to the entire panorama of the scene represented, i.e. the particularity, the individuality, the 'hands on'.  (Kodner)

Jean Dufy in 1916 worked briefly with his brother in a studio doing textile painting, and then began what became a major component of his career for the next 30 years---porcelain decoration for Haviland in Limoges, France.  For skillful and creative execution of animal and floral designs, he received the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts gold medal in 1925 for a set he designed titled "Chateau de France".

By 1920, he was a member of the Salon d'Automne, where he exhibited in 1920, 1923, 1924, 1927 and 1932.  Also bringing him increasing public attention was gallery representation in Paris at the Galerie Bing and in New York at Balzac and Peris Galleries.  In 1937, he helped his brother, Raoul, with the completion of his assignment to oversee the decoration of the Electric Pavillion for the World's Fair.  Together they did a mural, 600 meters in size, to celebrate electricity.

He established residency in Montmartre, living near the artist, Georges Braque.  In addition to painting and decorative arts, Jean Dufy was a musician, playing the classical guitar, and was a jazz enthusiast, which some critics have linked to his rhythmic, fluid painting style.  The interest in music likely is linked to his father, whose career was accounting for a metallurgy company and who was an amateur musician.  The love of music of Dufy transferred to his artwork, and he did many brightly colored depictions of musicians in orchestra scenes and piano players.  Among his associates were prominent avant-garde composers whose names remain famous such as Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger and Eric Satie.

Finding many painting subjects, Jean Dufy traveled extensively in the 1950s, the last decade of his life.  He returned often to his hometown of Le Havre and to his mother's birthplace of Honfleur, as well as to many other locations in Europe and to North Africa.  However, judging by his many scenes of Paris, it was the location that for him was most fascinating: "the streets, the horse-drawn carriages, the Eiffel Tower, the sky, and the Seine." (Bailly)

Jean Dufy died May 12, 1964 in the French village of Boussay.  His wife, Ismérie, had died two months earlier.

Jacques Bailly, Catalogue Raisonné of Dufy,

Biography from Daphne Alazraki Fine Art:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Jean Dufy was born into a large artistic family in Le Havre in 1888. From a family of nine children, Jean Dufy was the younger brother of Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), and like his brother, he would celebrate Paris as one of his favorite subjects. The Dufy family was particularly musical, and the father was a talented amateur musician in addition to his profession as an accountant. The musical stage and composers of his era served as the lyrical subjects of many of Jean Dufy’s paintings.

Little is known of Dufy’s childhood in Le Havre, other than that he worked as an itinerant clerk for an overseas import business and as secretary on the transatlantic liner La Savoie, which linked Le Havre to New York. At the 1906 Le Havre exposition, he first saw the works of Matisse, Derain, Marquet and Picasso. After serving in the military from 1910 to 1912, Dufy moved to Paris and grew acquainted with Derain, Braque, Picasso, and Apollinaire. He showed his first watercolors at the Berthe Weill gallery in 1914, and these works show the hatching* technique practiced by Cezanne and his brother Raoul.

Dufy was drafted shortly after this first exposition to fight in World War I. Upon returning from the war he received medical treatment in Val-d’Ajol, in the Vosges region, where he drew the landscapes, flowers, and horses of the region. In 1916, after briefly working with his brother for the textile-painting studio of the Bianchini-Férier company in Lyon, Dufy embarked upon what would become thirty years of decorating porcelain for Théodore Haviland in Limoges. His floral and animal-based designs earned him a gold medal at the 1925 International Exhibition of Decorative Arts for the Châteaux de France set.

In 1920, Dufy moved back to Paris, settling into Montmartre. Amid this intense artistic scene, the artist developed his skills as a colorist. He also met some of the great musicians of the day, and his work increasingly reflected the marriage of art and music. He created scenes of musicians and orchestras, and several showed the figures in the shapes and placements of musical notes upon a page. He also was attracted to painting circuses and clowns. In the following years, Jean’s return visits to Le Havre inspired many colorful landscapes. For the 1937 World’s Fair, the general manager of the Paris electricity distribution company commissioned Jean and Raoul to decorate the electricity pavilion.

Between 1950 and 1960, Dufy traveled widely, mostly in Europe and North Africa. Paris remained his favorite subject, drawing the parks, the Eiffel Tower, street life, and the Seine. During his life, Jean Dufy was a well-known painter with frequent expositions in Paris and the United States. He passed away on May 12, 1964, in La Boissière in the village of Boussay, two months after the death of his wife Ismérie.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from Anderson Galleries, Inc.:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

From a family of nine children, Jean Dufy was the younger brother of Raoul Dufy (1877-1953).  The Dufy family was very open to the arts, particularly to music.  From the age of 14, Jean exhibited artistic abilities that were encouraged by his brother Raoul, and Raoul’s friend A.E. Othon Friesz.  Jean also painted theater sets. He enrolled in l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts du Havre, where he was taught first by Raoul and then by Friesz and Georges Braque.

Jean had, at this period of his life, discovered much from travels to North Africa and other European cities.  World War I, during which he was a horse-soldier, interrupted his activities for a while.  But by 1920, he began regularly exhibiting his paintings, notably at the Salon d’Automne, of which he was also a member.  Along with his brother Raoul, Jean was active in the decorative arts, especially in textiles and porcelains.

Inevitably, Jean Dufy’s work continues to be compared to that of his brother. However, Raoul Dufy often dissected each of the elements that he used in his compositions, lending his work an acuteness. Jean, on the other hand, was more sensitive to the entire panorama of the scene represented—the complete atmosphere of his subject can be felt in his grand swathes of color and cohesive palette.

Jean painted frequently in oil, gouache, watercolor and ink.   Like his brother, his subjects are often Paris, French leisure destinations, country scenes, circuses, horse races, stages and orchestras.  He played the classical guitar and was an amateur of jazz, which may account for his paintings exhibiting a more fluid rhythm revealed in the deep blues, animated reds and greens, and yellows that tend to accentuate light. Towards the end of his career, Jean retired to his farm in the Loire River valley where he remained up until his death, continuing to paint the fresh, simple subjects which were the love of his life.

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