- Raoul Dufy
- Les Regattes à Trouville
- signed R. Dufy (lower left)
- oil on canvas
- 50 by 80cm.
- 19 3/4 by 31 1/2 in.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris
Paul Poiret, Paris
Robert Kahn-Sriber, Paris (sold: Sotheby’s, London, 1st July 1975, lot 14)
Sale: Sotheby’s, London, 18th May 1983, lot 68
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Marcel Drion, Raoul Dufy, Peintures et Aquarelles, Cologne, 1959, no. 11, illustrated
Maurice Lafaille, Raoul Dufy, catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre peint de 1895 à 1915, Geneva, 1972, vol. I, no. 151, illustrated p. 134; illustrated in colour p. 135
In 1905 Dufy visited the seminal Salon des Indépendants, and saw Matisse, Derain and Vlaminck’s contributions, after which his own art changed dramatically. During the summer of the following year, Dufy travelled in the company of Albert Marquet along the Normandy coast, each artist exploring in his own way the expressive potential of colour and form evoked by the scenes they encountered in the popular resorts of Le Havre and Sainte-Adresse. This highly productive trip confirmed Dufy’s place amongst the Fauves, and the artistic significance of the Norman coastline within his œuvre. As Alvin Martin and Judi Freeman wrote: 'What distinguished the work of the Fauves from Le Havre (Dufy, Friesz and Braque [fig. 2]) from that of Matisse and company was the treatment of surface and colour. Whereas the Norman artists have been steadfastly loyal to the Impressionist approach to painting, Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck and the others borrowed extensively from the far more audacious generation that succeeded the Impressionists. The Norman Fauves found irresistible the full-blown Fauve manner of painting, characterized by highly saturated colour and the laying in of brilliant tones side by side, and they inevitably responded to it in their own work, produced back in their native Normandy' (A. Martin & J. Freeman, 'The Distant Cousins in Normandy: Braque, Dufy and Friesz', in The Fauve Landscape, New York, 1990, pp. 221-22).
The seaside towns that dotted the Norman coastline with their casinos, promenades and regattas, appealed to Dufy and his sense of occasion (figs. 1 & 2). The joyful assembly of parasol-carrying women and boater-hatted men watching boats racing in the present work is typical of the artist’s Fauve-period work. As Martin and Freeman have noted: ‘Painting Honfleur and Trouville, just across the estuary [from Le Havre], gave Dufy a chance to reinterpret, not reinvent, the sites so favoured by Monet, Boudin, and others’ (A. Martin & J. Freeman, ibid., p. 222). This reinvention was partly managed by the inclusion of the tourist amenities that had been established in the towns. The Impressionists had wilfully excised these prosaic elements to make their compositions more idyllic; Dufy’s bill-boards and bunting underwrite the modernity of his lively paintings.
An early owner of the present work was Paul Poiret, a fashion designer and devoted collector of Dufy’s work. In 1911 Dufy was asked by Poiret to design some fabric for his celebrated dresses. Poiret’s clothes became the foundation for the modern shape and style of women’s fashion, paving the way for Chanel and Schiaparelli. Dufy’s work as a fabric designer was an important addition to his painted work, providing him with additional income and new acquaintances. He helped Poiret to organise grand parties at his Hôtel de la Couture on the Fauborg Saint-Honoré and his hunting lodge at Versailles. Discussing the relationship between the artist and the designer Sarah Wilson wrote: ‘In Poiret he had found a patron and a prince of patrons. […] Dufy’s new role as courtier and preparer of fêtes and banquets was to have lasting influence.’ (S. Wilson in Raoul Dufy (exhibition catalogue), Hayward Gallery, London, 1983, p. 74).