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 Raoul Dufy  (1877 - 1953)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: fauve painting-beach scenes, illustration, design

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Raoul Dufy
An example of work by Raoul Dufy
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
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.

Raoul Dufy was born on June 3, 1877 in Le Havre, France and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, as well as with Othon Friesz and Lhuillier. Although inspired by Matisse and resembling him in his devotion to rhythmic line, pure color and decorative effects, Dufy was a painter of great independence and originality. During the first half of the 20th century, the Fauves, the Cubists, and the Surrealists dominated the art of France. Throughout all of these developments, Dufy went on painting the most highly civilized subjects he could find, the elegant holiday places and events of the rich.

Dufy's palette and his taste for beauty eventually led him to the world of fashion and fabric design. He formed a close relationship with the couturier Paul Poiret, for whose fashion house he designed a logo; he also designed silk fabrics. This association bought him financial security. He eventually became one of the most sought-after illustrators of his day and designed sets and costumes for the theatre as well as upholstery and wallpaper.

One of the largest paintings of modern times was the gigantic mural done by Raoul Dufy for the pavillion of electricity at the 1937 International Exposition in Paris. The finished work, depicting the history and importance of electricity to the 20th century, was 197 feet wide and 33 feet high. Dufy christened it "La Fee Electricite". After the Exposition closed, Dufy's mural, too big for exhibition, was stored away from public view in 250 sections. Dufy worried about its neglect and sought some way to keep his gigantic work on view. The answer was provided by a Paris pulisher, who proposed that Dufy reproduce the mural as a color lithograph. Dufy set to work in 1951 and shortly before his death in 1953 completed the most ambitious lithography project ever undertaken: three feet high by twenty feet wide, done in twenty-two colors and printed in ten sheets.

He was devoted to America and the American scene, to which he paid two visits. The latter of these visits was in 1951, for medical treatment of his arthritis. Crippling as his ailment was, Dufy did not allow it to halt his work or to diminish his great joy in life. Treatment of his arthritis by injecting cortisone improved his condition so much that he was able to return to his farmhouse in Provence where he painted several hours a day. He died in 1953 at the age of seventy-five.


Submitted August 2004 by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
"The Standard Treasury of the World's Great Paintings"
"Time Magazine", December 14, 1953
From the Internet, Artchive.com
"Life Magazine", date unknown

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.

Raoul Dufy was a prominent French painter whose prolific career spanned over 50 years.  In addition to his vocation as a painter, Dufy also worked as an illustrator (Apollinaire’s Bestiaire), fabric designer (for Paul Poiret) and decorator (the Fée Électricité for the Palais de la Lumière at the Exposition Universelle in 1937).

Dufy’s artistic training began when he and Othon Friesz were school friends and together studied the works of Eugene Boudin in the museum in Le Havre.  In 1900, Dufy received a local grant that enabled him to attend the l’École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he joined Bonnat’s studio.

Shortly thereafter in 1902, he was introduced to Berthe Weill, who showed his work in her gallery.  Matisse’s painting, Luxe, Calme et Volupté, which Dufy saw at the Salon des Indépendants in 1905, was a revelation to the young artist and directed his interest towards Fauvism. With Friesz at Falaise, Marquet at Sainte-Adresse, and Braque at l’Estaque, he expressed his fondness for pure color and the charm of beach scenes.  It was only after the war that he found his own personal style, producing rapid but precise drawings of frequently plunging perspectives, to which clear colors were applied with a kind of casual freedom.

Museum Collections Include:
Hermitage, St. Petersburg; The Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Accademica Carrara, Bergamo; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland; Museum of Provencal Art & History, Grasse; Tate Gallery, London; Musee Royal des Beaux-Arts, Copenhagen; Musee des Beaux-Arts, Le Havre; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris

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