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Marcel Dyf – The Lesser Known French Landscape Impressionist

Marcel Dyf was a self-taught French Impressionism painter. He started out as an engineer but at the age of twenty-three, decided to pursue art. During his lifetime, his career as an artist flourished. Art collectors and patrons throughout Europe and the United States sought out his beautiful landscapes.

Marcel Dyf – Early Years: Engineer to Artist

Marcel Dyf was born in Paris in 1899 as Marcel Dreyfus. He grew up in a period when revolutionary art movements were emerging such as impressionism and post-impressionism. Although inspired by the traditional European masters such as Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer, Dyf also was captivated my the impressionists and in particular Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Marcel Dyf studied engineering. However at the age of 23 he abandoned engineering for a career as an artist. To do this, he left Paris, moved to Arles in Provence, set up his own painting studio and focused on landscape painting. He stayed in Arles on and off for twenty years.

Dyf’s paintings were quickly noticed by the art world. He received commissions to paint large historical and decorative frescoes in public buildings and churches throughout the Provence region.  

Paris & the Vibrant Art Scene

In 1935 Dyf rented Maximilien Luce’s old studio on the left bank in Paris. During this period he divided his time between Paris and Provence. Returning to the capital allowed him to participate in the vibrant art scene. However everything changed when the World War Two broke out and the Germans invaded France.

A Resistance Fighter in the War Years

When the war broke out, Marcel Dyf immediately left Paris and gave up painting. He quickly joined the French resistance and fought with them for the entire duration of the war. When the war ended, he returned to Arles to find his studio and artworks completely destroyed. With a heavy heart, Dyf returned to Paris for a brief period.  

Dyf missed the South and left Paris once again, making a home for himself in the beautiful medieval, hill-top village of Saint Paul-de-Vence (also the hometown of Marc Chagall). He again moved between the French capital and the South for his remaining years.

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Love in His Later Years

In the summer of 1954, when Marcel Dyf was 55 years old, he met Claudine Godat, aged 19. She was very pretty and Dyf wanted her to model for him. The attraction between the two was immediate and they married a year later.

Together the couple bought a 16th century hunting lodge at Bois d’Arcy, close to Versailles. This place became their base. However, every winter the couple returned to Provence in Southern France where Dyf continued to paint. They sometimes stayed in Saint-Rémy or in the small village of Eygalières. Many of Marcel Dyf’s landscapes are of this picturesque region.  

Marcel Dyf ‘s paintings are characterized by his use of soft & beautiful palette of colors. He is also famous not only for his landscapes and seascapes but also for his still life and figure paintings. In fact, many of his figure paintings are of his beloved wife Claudine who posed for him.

Marcel Dyf Paintings of his wife Claudine
(These artworks are believed to be under copyright; only the thumbnail may be displayed under fair use

Dyf’s Discovers Rugged Brittany

In 1960, Claudine insisted that they travel around Brittany. Marcel Dyf  loved this remote and rugged region. The scenery inspired many beautiful landscapes and seascapes. The privileged couple developed a new routine. In the autumn they stayed at their home near Versailles , early spring they moved to Provence and the summers months were spent in Brittany in a house they purchased in the coastal town Arzon.

Throughout these years Marcel Dyf  painted plein-air landscapes of Brittany, Provence, and the Ile de France region.  He exhibited these paintings in France, London, Canada, and the United States.

Marcel Dyf’s death in 1985 marked the passing of one of the last true Impressionism painters of our era.

Today you can view Marcel Dyf paintings in the following places (most are owned by private collectors):

  • The Musee Arlaten in Arles, France
  • The Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, MA
  • Murals in the Collège Ampère in Lyon, the Saint Martin-de-Crau Town Hall in Saint Martin-de-Crau, and Les Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer Town Hall in Camargue

For more articles about other fabulous but more obscure French Impressionists, check out the articles below: