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The Whimsical & Colorful Raoul Dufy Paintings

Raoul Dufy paintings are described as expressing the most optimistic aspects of the 20th century with humour and style.

His paintings are characterized by their whimsical bright colors depicting leisure activities and landscapes. He revisited certain themes throughout his lifetime, including those from the French Riviera, opera, seaside, sailing regattas, horse racing and musical events. The joy and lightness conveyed throughout Dufy’s paintings are not only due to the subject matter but also to the artist’s distinct style and exceptional use of color.

Even the great modernist writer ,Gertrude Stein was lyrical about the quality of Raoul Dufy’s paintings by saying:

“One must meditate about pleasure. Raoul Dufy is pleasure.” Quote Gertrude Stein

Raoul Dufy Painting entitled: Open Window, Nice
Raoul Dufy Painting entitled: Open Window, Nice

Dufy’s discovery of fauvism art  in 1905 was a revelation. Fauvism gave him the freedom to use spontaneous, expressive lines and intense, non-naturalistic color which he embraced as his own style whole-heartedly.

The Early Years & the Influence of Impressionism

Raoul Dufy was born into a large family at Le Havre, in Normandy. At the age of 18, he started painting and took evening classes at Le Havre’s École des Beaux-Arts (municipal art school). During this period, Dufy painted mostly Norman landscapes in watercolors.

Trouville Painting by Dufy
The Houses in Trouville, Normandy – Raoul Dufy

In 1900, after a year of military service, Dufy won a scholarship to the prestigious
École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Here he met many other emerging painters, including Georges Braques. However, the major influence in these early days came from the impressionism painters & in particular, Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro.

He began exhibiting his works in Paris and even exhibited with the impressionists in 1903 at the Salon des Indépendants.

Dufy often returned to Normandy to paint the landscapes that he grew up on and loved. He painted the rugged coastal beaches which were also painted by other famous painters, including Eugene Boudin and Claude Monet.

Landscape of Honfleur by Raoul Dufy
Raoul Dufy, Vieilles maisons sur le bassin de Honfleur, (Normandy) 1906 [Public Domain]

Later Years and the Influence of Fauvism

Dufy first encountered Fauvism at the Salon des Indépendants in 1905, when he saw the paintings of the Fauve leader Henri Matisse. The use of unabashed color in
fauvisim art was an eye opener for Dufy. He soon after embraced the fauvist concepts and further adapted this style for his own paintings.

Subsequent contact with Paul Cezanne around 1910 tamed Dufy’s technique, whose work continued to develop. In 1920 an influence of Cubism movement (founded by Picasso and Braques) led to the final evolution of his unique style.

During his later years as an artist, Dufy traveled both abroad and within France, painting views of the Mediterranean city of Nice, as well as scenes of horse races and regattas. Throughout the 1920s, Dufy worked with a variety of materials, producing ceramics, tapestry hangings, and large-scale architectural decorations.

Painting of Horse racing by Dufy
Horse Racing – Raoul Dufy Paintings

Dufy’s most famous masterpiece is the huge ‘Electricity Fairy’. He painted this monumental piece in 1937 for the Paris International Exhibition. This amazing painting consists of 250 panels (200 x 120 cm) that cover 600 square meters. Today you can visit this beautiful masterpiece at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris.

Massive mural at the Modern Art Museum in Paris
Raoul Dufy Painting – ‘Electricity Fairy’
Modern Art Museum – Paris

In 1953 Dufy died. His grave is located near the grave of Henri Matisse in the cemetery in Cimiez, a suburb of the city of Nice.

Where to View Raoul Dufy Paintings

Today, Dufy’s artworks are showcased in many major art museums all over the world including the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Pola Museum of Art in Japan.

In Paris?

Visit the location of Dufy’s home & Studio – Today the Montmartre Museum

During Dufy’s time in Paris, he lived and worked in a studio in a old run-down house that served as an artist commune. This large seventeenth century house also served as a popular meeting place for many artists including Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon, Émile Bernard and others. Because of its rich artistic past, this house has been converted into the wonderful Montmartre museum.

View of the Montmartre Museum from the outside
Montmartre Museum
Photo by Shadowgate on Flickr

Musee D’Orsay

The Musee D’Orsay is an internationally renowned museum famous for it’s impressive and largest collection of impressionism and post-impressionism art.

The collections in the museum represent all creative artworks, including painting, architecture, sculpture, the decorative arts and photography. The musee D’Orsay showcases some of Raoul Dufy’s most famous paintings. This museum should NOT be missed!

Paris Museum of Modern Art

This beautiful museum showcases art from the post-impressionism period. It is a vast museum with over 10,000 artworks. One huge round hall houses the magnificent and very famous Raoul Dufy mural “The Electricity Fairy”.

This massive mural depicts the history of electricity. Dufy was commissioned to create the mural by the Palais de La Lumière et de l’Electricité as a part of the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. The mural depicts portraits of over 100 inventors and scientists who have invented or made substantial contribution to the research, development and application of electricity. The mural is huge! In order to appreciate it’s overwhelming beauty, you must visit it in person. Press here for more information.

The museum of modern art from the outside
The Museum of Modern Art Paris

Visiting Nice on the French Riviera?

Fine Arts Museum of Nice (Musee des Beaux-Arts)

This lovely museum is in a gorgeous old palace tucked away from the touristy crowds.The rooms are large, spacious and full of light. The entire art collection is wonderful, however the Raoul Dufy paintings are the highlight. This place is a MUST if you are a Dufy fan. Press here for more information.

The Bay of Angles, Nice - Raoul Dufy Paintings
The Bay of Angles, Nice – Raoul Dufy Paintings [Public Domain]

Le Havre & the Art Collection of their famous “son” Raoul Dufy

Le Havre city is proud of their famous “son” Raoul Dufy who was born here in 1877. In celebration of their world famous “son”, the Musée d’art moderne André Malraux (also known as MUMA) showcases a wonderful Raoul Dufy collection with famous landscapes covering all periods of his artistic career. For more information, press here