Jean Dufy (1888-1964)

Jean Dufy was born in Le Havre on March 12, 1888 into a family of nine children. Jean’s natural artistic talent was enthusiastically encouraged by his elder brother Raoul Dufy and his friend Emile Othon Friesz. Jean first studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Le Havre alongside Raoul, Friesz, and Georges Braque. Thereafter, he traveled extensively throughout Europe and North Africa.

Dufy first exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in 1923. Throughout the next two decades he enjoyed success in several different exhibition venues, including the Salon (in 1924, 1926, 1927, and 1932) and elsewhere, showing at galleries in New York City for much of the 1930’s. These shows gave Jean’s body of work its first major public exposure. He also won a gold medal at the 1925 International Exhibition of Decorative Arts for the Châteaux de Franceset.

Two events in postwar Paris affected the artist’s career significantly: the comedy Le Bœuf sur le toit, in 1920, allowed Dufy contact with some of France’s greatest musicians of the time (Francis Poulenc, Darius Millaud, Georges Auric, Arthur Honegger, Erik Satie); and La Revue Nègre, in 1925, solidified Dufy’s favored pairing of color and music that would lead to his unique and spectacular works of art. During the same time period, Jean also paid homage to the Fratellini brothers through his paintings of circuses and clowns.

When he eventually took a step back from the more cosmopolitan corners of society, Dufy took to painting quietly at his farm in the Loire Valley near Nantes, where he remained until his death in 1964. Though he preferred to work alone, he was not a recluse. He lived joyously, though quietly, absorbed in his painting and making long trips with his wife to Paris and the coasts of France, as well as to Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and Denmark. Wherever he went, his keen eye and retentive memory absorbed all that he saw, and numerous pencil sketches, pen and ink drawings, gouaches, and oils resulted, all filled with his own exuberant wit and delight in the variety of the world’s beauty and man’s activities.

Jean Dufy 1
Jean Dufy, Courtesy of the Findlay Institute

In his watercolors, gouaches, and oils, the observer’s eye is immediately caught by his brilliant color, his daring juxtaposition of slashing strokes of flashing color, and his free handling of startling shades. The surface ease with which he handled paint concealed the firm, strong composition underlying all of his work. These qualities are visible in the entirety of the wide range of subjects that Jean Dufy drew and painted. Scenes of Paris, circus life, the sea, ships and harbors, race tracks, flowers and still-lifes, landscapes, occasional farm scenes, hunting scenes, riders in the Bois de Boulogne – all took on an individual, distinctive life and vivacity under his brush.

Jean Dufy passed away on May 12, 1964, in La Boissière in the village of Boussay, two months after the death of his wife Ismérie.

Record Price Achieved at Auction
Place de la Concorde
Ca. 1953
Christie’s New York
Impressionist and Modern Day Sale (Sale 2479)
Lot 279
November 2, 2011

A Wally Findlay Artist