French Fauve Painter
He developed a colourful, decorative style that became fashionable for designs for ceramics, textiles and decorative schemes for public buildings. He is noted for scenes of open-air social events.
Raoul Dufy was born at Le Havre, in Normandy, one of a family of nine members. He left school at the age of 14 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.
Raoul Dufy, Regatta at Cowes, (1934), Washington D.C. National Gallery of Art.
In 1900, after a year of military service, Raoul won a scholarship enabling him to attend the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he was a fellow student with 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 Paul Cézanne 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 Electricité 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.
Dufy died near Forcalquier, France, on 23 March 1953, and was buried not far from Matisse in the Cimiez Monastery Cemetery in Cimiez, a suburb of the city of Nice, France.