I've always thought of Raoul Dufy as Henri Matisse's younger, sweeter brother. You wouldn't think there was a bad bone in his body from the joyous colours of his pictures. And God, what colour!! It's as though God said to Dufy one day: "The world's dull looking. Go and paint it again so everyone can see why I created it in the first place".
Dufy oblidged and in doing so has left a body of work as uplifting to behold as any other artist could dream of, let alone realise. The purity of line, the skeletal structures washed in the bright colours of Heaven, the Dufyesque perspective, the Dufy blue, blue seas and blue, blue skies, the open-air social events enveloped in colour ... oh, just to behold his work makes me feel better about the world when I'm feeling down.
I would recommend to anyone this one simple pick-me-up. When the latest gas bill has thundered onto your doormat, or you've just had to take the 100th cold call of the day from a salesman offering you the earth if you would only sign here, get a good Dufy book of his paintings and just sit back and take it all bit. In no time at all that gas bill won't seem so bad, and that salesman will have lost your number!
Needless to say, I love Dufy's work. Of course, I'm not alone. I would argue that no other artist has influenced designers or artists as Dufy has done. Today, you see Dufy inspired colour schemes in countless prints and countless ceramics in millions and millions of homes around the world. Its as though everyone wants a little bit of Dufy and everyone has taken a little bit of Dufy in the bargain!
Indeed, if the Estate of Dufy were given a few bob for every Dufy inspired print or pillow cover or duvet cover or teapot then they would have, er, more than a few bob.
He was born in Le Havre in Normandy, one of a family of nine members. At the age of 14 he left school to work in a coffee importing company. In 1895 when he was 18, he started evening classes in art at Le Havre École des Beaux-Arts. He and Othon Friesz, a school friend, studied the works of Eugène Boudin in the museum in Le Havre.
In 1900, after a year of military service, he won a scholarship enabling him to attend the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he was a fellow student of Georges Braque. The impressionist landscapists, such as Claude Monet
and Camille Pissarro, influenced him.
Introduced to Berthe Weill in 1902, she showed his work in her gallery.
Henri Matisse's 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. Les Fauves
(wild beasts) emphasised bright colour and rich bold
contours in their work, and Dufy’s painting reflects this approach until about 1909, when contact with the work of
led him to adopt a somewhat subtler technique.
It was not until 1920, after he had flirted briefly with
yet another style, cubism, that Dufy
developed his own distinctive approach involving skeletal structures, arranged in a diminished perspective, and the use of light washes of colour put on by swift brush strokes in a manner that came to be known as stenographic.
Dufy's cheerful oils and watercolours depict yachting scenes, sparkling views of the French Riviera, chic parties and musical events. The optimistic and fashionably decorative and illustrative nature of much of his work has meant that his output is less highly critically valued than artists who treat a wider range of social concerns.
In 1938, Dufy completed one of the largest paintings ever done, a huge and immensely popular epic to electricity, the fresco La Fée Electicité
for the Exposition Internationale in Paris.
Dufy also acquired a reputation as an illustrator and an applied artist. He changed the face of fashion and fabric design with his work for Paul Poiret.
He painted murals for public buildings, and produced a
prodigious number of tapestries and ceramic designs. His
plates appear in books by Guillaume Apollinaire, Stéphane
Mallarmé and André Gide.
He died near Forcalquier, France, on March 23, 1953, and, as Fate would have it, was buried not far from 'his older brother if in the name of art alone'
Matisse in the Cimiez Monastery Cemetery in Cimiez, a suburb of the city of Nice, France.
It is said that the sun never sets on that graveyard.
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