Julian I. Raskin, New York (acquired from the above in April 1956)
Private Collection, Europe (by descent from the above)
Simon Dickinson Ltd., London
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010
Raoul Dufy (exhibition catalogue), Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon & Museu Picasso, Barcelona, 1999, fig. 2, illustrated p. 74 (titled La plage du Havre)
Although the present work has historically been known as La plage du Havre, the site depicted is, in fact, the neighbouring town of Sainte-Adresse (fig. 1). In July and August of 1906 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. In doing so, they were following in the footsteps of Claude Monet who, several decades earlier, was painting at Le Havre and the nearby Trouville (fig. 2). This year proved to be a seminal time in the career of the young artist: he exhibited in both the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne, and had his first one-man show at the gallery of Berthe Weill in Paris, which heralded Dufy’s widespread recognition as an artist and marked the advent of his Fauve years.
Within the early Fauve movement, a difference could be discerned between its various protagonists. As Alvin Martin and Judi Freeman wrote: 'What distinguished the work of the Fauves from Le Havre (Dufy, Friesz and Braque) from that of Matisse and company was the treatment of surface and color. 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 color 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. 221-222).
The artist himself said of his paintings of this period: ‘Around 1905-06, I was painting on the beach of Sainte-Adresse. I had previously painted beaches in the manner of the Impressionists, and had reached a saturation point, realizing that this method of copying nature was leading me off into infinity, with its twists and turns and its most subtle and fleeting details. I myself was standing outside the picture. Having arrived at some beach subject or other I would sit down and start looking at my tubes of paint and my brushes. 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, London, 1989, pp. 22-23).
However, over and beyond the use of Fauvist colour, the present work illustrates how Dufy had begun to simplify the compositional forms of his works. Strident blocs of colour interact with the rhythms created by horizontal and diagonal elements, demonstrating Dufy's move towards a more abstracted vision of reality. This tendency might have owed something the influence of Gauguin; the 1906 Salon d'Automne had brought his work to the general public's attention, and the highly stylised approach to colour and form, with large areas covered with strong, unmodulated pigment and a flat monochrome background had a profound influence of numerous artists. The simplicity and lack of ornament in these works is a signal of the direction Dufy's art was taking in this critical period in his career.
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