Lot 349
  • 349

Raoul Dufy

600,000 - 800,000 GBP
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  • Raoul Dufy
  • Bateaux et barques aux Martigues
  • signed Raoul Dufy (towards lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 45.8 by 54.5cm., 18 by 21 1/2in.


Gérard Oury, France
Private Collection, France (by descent from the above; sale: Artcurial, Paris, 20th April 2009, lot 29)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Musée de l'imprimerie & Barcelona, Museu Picasso, Museu Tèxtil i Indumentària, Raoul Dufy, 1999, no. 33, illustrated in the catalogue
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Raoul Dufy le plaisir, 2008-09, no. 40, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Martigues, Musée Ziem, De Martigues à l'Estaque, 2013, no. 24, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Raoul Dufy, 2015, no. 19, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


The canvas is not lined. UV examination reveals a few tiny spots of fluorescence, possibly in-fills, to the lower right corner. There are some fine lines of craquelure to some of the impasto, most prominently to the beige pigment in the upper right and left quadrants. There is some paint shrinkage to the deep red pigment in the centre of the composition as well as in the dark brown pigment of the church spire in the upper left corner. There are two small paint losses to the pink pigment towards the upper left part of the composition. This work is in overall good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Striking in its elegance and dynamism, Bateaux et barques aux Martigues was painted in 1907 at the height of Raoul Dufy’s Fauve period. A fantastically vibrant and serene image of the seaside in the Côte d’Azur, the present work reveals Dufy’s rapid assimilation of the spatial lessons of Cubism. Following an initial brief sojourn in Paris where he studied and lived with the painter Emile Othon Friesz, Dufy discovered the luminosity of the South of France, a place he would return to throughout his career. Dufy first visited the South of France, specifically the town of Martigues which is nestled on the coast between the artistically historical towns of Arles and Aix-en-Provence, in 1903. Martigues attracted artists and was frequently visited by Dufy and Francis Picabia, Auguste Rodin and Paul Signac, all keen admirers of the painter Félix Ziem (1821- 1911), who had set up a studio there in 1861. Ziem’s donation of works in his collection contributed to set up the Musée Ziem in 1908, now housing celebrated works from this period of Dufy’s œuvre (Fig. 1).

Bateaux et barques aux Martigues forms part of a significant and celebrated series of six paintings depicting boats floating atop the calm sea inhabiting the port in Martigues (Fig. 2). The work has an intrinsic energy of movement and dynamism of form and colour, which is in contrast to the apparent simplicity and relative calm of the colour planes created by variations of blue and green, and yellow and reds. Reduced to essential lines and explosive colour, the present work is an extremely delicate and harmonious composition and variation on this theme. Bateaux et barques aux Martigues is remarkably reductionist in its execution, with all of the forms being reduced to their most essential. This ‘search for the absolute’ was one of the most central and fundamental artistic aims amongst avant-garde artists of the twentieth century, a vision initiated by the FauvesFauvism, a short-lived but incredibly popular movement, earned its proponents this name (which translates as ‘the beasts’) through its daring palettes and loose brushwork. For Charles Morice, writing in 1904, the first Fauve works signalled a change of focus ‘from observation to interpretation, from realist art to decorative art’ (Charles Morice, ‘Le XXe Salon des Indépendents’, in La Mercure de France, May 1904, pp. 405-9, translated from French). Dufy, along with Matisse and Derain, was one of the most prominent artists at the centre of this movement. The influence from both Henri Matisse, whose canvas, Luxe, calme et volupté exhibited at the ‘Salon des Indépendants’ of 1905 would ultimately transform and educate Dufy’s vision, along with the complementary investigation into space and form and the questioning of traditional Euclidian perspective of Paul Cézanne (which Dufy would have examined during the artist’s Salon D’Automne retrospective in 1907) strongly marked the artist’s own vision away from the visual richness of Impressionism. Indeed, as Dufy himself said of his paintings of this period, ‘I had previously painted beaches in the manner of the Impressionists, and had reached saturation point, realising that this method of copying nature was leading me into infinity, with its twists and turns and its most subtle and fleeting details […] How, using these things, could I succeed in conveying not what I see, but that which is, that which exists for me, my reality? […] From that day onwards, I was unable to return to my barren struggles with the elements that were visible to my gaze. It was no longer possible to show them in their external form’ (quoted in Dora Perez-Tibi, Dufy, Paris, 1989, pp. 22-3).

Bateaux et barques aux Martigues assimilates Dufy's understanding of his pure Fauve style with a Cézanne-inspired spatial investigation into a highly individual aesthetic. Dufy here pays particular attention to the treatment of volumes and the complexity of movement. On the theme of the Martigues paintings and commenting on another work in the series, such concerns are discussed by Dora Perez-Tibi: 'In the autumn of 1907, in Marseille and Martigues, Dufy painted a series of works marked more by formal than by lyrical concerns. Les barques aux Martigues is one illustration of this new direction. While he remained devoted to a sustained chromaticism, he arranged his forms in a tiered perspective: the greatest emphasis is placed on a rigorous geometrical style which defines the structures repeated throughout the composition. A pivotal work, this painting reveals the influence of Cézanne and anticipated the new direction in which Dufy's experiments were to lead him at the beginning of 1908. The Fauve stage was only a brief episode in Dufy's career, but he was to retain its lesson of simplicity, the paring down of the subject. He was also never to lose the taste for colour which it gave him' (Dora Perez-Tibi, Dufy, Paris, 1989, p. 32).

The vibrant palette and the singularity of the present work emphasize Dufy’s style of achieving a sense of movement through simplicity of lines and essentiality of form. In a striking manner, Dufy contrasts the central foreground landscape, comprised of sinuous curved lines, with the vertical lines of the masts and the geometric lines of the nearby towering houses. A passionate follower of the effects of colour, Dufy once again combines iconic imagery with a singular painterly style. The scene is empty of figures, creating a magical ambience of silence, in which time appears to have been suspended. Les barques aux Martigues combines Fauvism’s most celebrated artistic elements of bold palette and gestural brushwork, but above it is a tribute to the life-affirming power of summer light. As Philip Taafe has remarked, in words that could have been written to describe the present work, ‘Raoul Dufy’s paintings astonish me for their meticulously regulated composition, achieved through a great economy of means, and the way in which they transcribe so precisely the sensations of light, atmosphere, and place’ (quoted in Raoul Dufy: Le Plaisir (exhibition catalogue), Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 2008, p. 161). For many years, this work formed part of the eminent French film director, actor and writer, Gérard Oury’s collection, director, among others, of the celebrated film La Grande Vadrouille of 1966 starring André Bourvil and Louis de Funès.