Germaine Dufy, Paris (by inheritance from the artist)
Gérard Oury, Paris (by descent from the above)
Wildenstein & Co., New York (acquired from the above in 1971)
Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney (acquired from the above on December 15, 1971)
Dufy claimed that the decisive turning point in his career occurred at the Salon d’Automne of 1905, where he saw Matisse’s revolutionary painting, Luxe, calme et volupté. At that point, claimed Dufy, “I understood the new raison d’être of painting and impressionist realism lost its charm for me as I beheld this miracle of the creative imagination at play, in color and drawing” (quoted in Jacques Lassaigne, Dufy, New York, n.d., p. 22). Influenced by the Fauves, Dufy incorporated the same bright hues in his own work, but he also personalized his style by incorporating softer colors such as pale pink, aqua, and yellow, and the use of black, a color banned from the Fauve palette. These colors offered a wide range of options for depicting outdoor scenes, which often featured racehorses at Deauville, the casino at Nice, or lively coastal scenes, such as the present work.
Although the present work has historically been known as Fête au Havre, the site depicted is, in fact, the neighboring town of Sainte-Adresse (see fig. 1). Dufy painted Fête à Sainte-Adresse in 1906, which proved to be a seminal year in the career of the young artist. He exhibited in both the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne, and opened his first one-man show at the gallery of Berthe Weill in Paris. Moreover, 1906 heralded Dufy’s widespread recognition as an artist and marked the advent of his Fauve years. As Dora Perez-Tibi has noted, “He had become aware of the need to recreate observed reality in terms of his own ‘reality,’ and now went on to elaborate his theory of ‘couleur-lumière,’ with which he experimented during these two years, and which he would apply to his entire oeuvre: ‘I was spontaneously led towards what was to become my real preoccupation. I had discovered a system, whose theory was this: to follow the light of the sun is a waster of time. Light in painting is something completely different: it is a light distributed throughout the composition, a ‘couleur-lumière’” (Dora Perez-Tibi, Dufy, New York, 1989, pp. 23-24).
By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Normandy coast had become a popular tourist destination, and was depicted in the work of many well-known artists, including Claude Monet. Like his colleague Albert Marquet, whom Dufy befriended in the early years of his career, Dufy was drawn to the region for the light and festive atmosphere of the coastal towns (see fig. 2). Fête à Sainte-Adresse stands out as a particularly detailed and complex composition from this period. The crowd of vacationers along the promenade in the lower right of the canvas is depicted from above, allowing a broad view of the beach and the buildings of Sainte-Adresse in the background, while the curve of the water and beach extends beyond the crowd, bisecting the canvas and creating a unique and visually stimulating composition.
Fig. 1, Photograph of the beach at Sainte-Adresse in 1905.
Fig. 2, Albert Marquet, Fête foraine au Havre, 1906, oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux
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