Raoul Dufy: A Celebration of Beauty
The Great Themes
Description and Themes
Data Sheet
Development of a Style
Fabrics and Fashion Design
The Great Themes
Public and Private Commissions
Provence: 1940 - 1953
Contact Information

Dufy often expressed himself using a small group of themes -- themes that were repeated, recreated, broadened and transfigured.  The country, the sea and music were his essential subjects and his most frequent sources of inspiration.

Cowes, 1929, watercolor

The Regattas

The theme of regattas appeared very early in Dufy's oeuvre (1907-1908).  He orchestrated it in many different variations, preceded by a large number of ensemble and detail studies -- in Le Havre and Deauville between 1925 and 1930, and in England, at Henley and Cowes between 1930 and 1934.  He returned to this theme over and over again, expanding and transforming it.  The variations emerge in the structure of the paintings and the choice and arrangement of colors.  A master of his technique, he made use of an increasingly free and dynamic composition, with vibrant colors exploding in a fanfare to announce the start of a race.

Sea and Clouds, 1910, watercolor

Dufy was born in Le Havre, and that helps to explain his fascination with the sea.  In his interviews with Pierre Courthion, he stressed its importance in the training of a painter:  ......"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,....."

For Dufy, obsessed by the challenge of  "couleur-lumiere," the sea -- either the Channel or the Mediterranean -- provided a range of constantly changing experiences.

The Races

The Paddock at Nice, 1927, watercolor

The theme of horse racing was also the subject of numerous variations during his long career, and it became particularly important between 1923 and 1927.  The race course scenes -- whether in France or England -- allowed Dufy to put his "couleur-lumiere" theories into practice.  He decided to convey light by means of color; the absence of color characterizes the unlit areas. 

When he composed his paintings, Dufy chose to have the light coming in from both sides, since he believed that  "every object has a center of light: it is modeled towards its outer edges where it is in pure or reflected shadow.  It is therefore connected to the object next to it by means of an area of shadow or reflection before it reaches the center of the object next to it. For this reason, one will never find two pure colors in contact with one another."

Baigneuses au canape, 1945, oil painting

"   When I feel a little confused . . . the only thing to do is to turn back to the study of nature before launching once again into the subjects closest to heart."     Raoul Dufy

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