The Vibrant Colors of Raoul Dufy

Pieter Paul Hensels, Author Gallerease
Pieter Paul Hensels
10 Articles

The French painter Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) is known for his brightly coloured and very decorative paintings of luxurious and pleasurable scenes.

Influenced by the broad brushstrokes and the vivid colors of the Fauvist artists André Derain and Henri Matisse, he began to develop his personal style at the beginning of the 1920s. During those years, he travelled much around different regions of France, as well as to England, Morocco, Spain, and other countries.

Meanwhile, he attended horse races, concerts and social meetings, which he then captured in drawings, watercolours and on canvas...


1. Raoul Dufy, Walking in Le Havre, circa 1926. Gouache on paper

 Seascapes were one of Dufy’s favourite subjects.

His aquarelle 'La Promenade au Havre' (1926, fig. 1), shows several figures gathered by the seaside of Le Havre in France.

Dufy’s distinctive style is characterized by vivid colours thinly spread over a white underground and sketchy delineated objects. The deep red colour of the dress belonging to the woman on the left forms a splendid contrast to the azure blue of the sea in the background, reflecting Dufy’s interest in the way colours interact differently with natural light.


2. Raoul Dufy, Le Champ de courses à Ascot, 1938. Watercolor and gouache on paper

 When Dufy visited some of the most fashionable race-courses, he became inspired by this unique combination of movement, colour and lighting. Amongst the other attendees were the leading creators of fashion such as Paul Poiret and Bianchini, who encouraged the artist to study the stylish ladies and gentlemen also present at the races.

Dufy's racing scene 'Le Champ de courses à Ascot' (1938,fig 2.) demonstrates his ability to represent both the excitement of the race and the elegance of its public. He applied vibrant blues in transparent washes to various onlookers to suggest luminosity. In doing so, Dufy put his 'couleur-lumière' theory into practice, conveying light by means of colour.

Jean Dufy (1888-1964), Raoul’s brother, was also a celebrated painter of equestrian sports, which he portrayed in the same sketchy style, exemplified in his beautiful painting 'Les Courses d’Obstacles' (fig 3 and at Gallerease)


3. Jean Dufy (1888 – 1964), Les courses d'Obstacles. Oil on Canvas

 During the 1920s Dufy produced many scenes with open windows and outward-facing balconies. The painting 'An Interior with Open Windows' (1928, see header) presents a seaside interior with two open windows, offering a glimpse of a city in Southern France.

He used a brilliant palette of blues, yellows and reds for this work. Whilst the deep blue of the sea and the sky outside extend along the window frame, the yellow tones of the houses are repeated in the wallpaper and the lining of the elegant Louis XV armchairs. The fusion of outdoor and indoor space is a characteristic feature of many of his interior scenes.

4. Raoul Dufy, The Red Orchestra, 1946-1949. Oil on canvas, 100 x 80, 96 cm. Milwaukee Art Museum.

 A devotee of classical music, Dufy also frequently visited Paris concert halls during the interwar period.

In the late 1930s and the 1940s he painted numerous scenes of orchestras in which he attempted to visually express the sounds of the instruments.

Dufy’s work T'he Red Orchestra' (1946-1949, fig. 4), characterized by vibrant red colours, clearly demonstrates this. The most saturated tone occupies the centre of the painting, in the form of a large triangular patch that rises from the orchestra to the ceiling of the room, like the music that fills the concert hall. Here, Dufy has applied colour in an abstract form to symbolize the musical passage performed by the orchestra.

See for more works our collection of Raoul Dufy at Gallerease



Written by Pieter Paul Hensels on 25 Aug 2018, 16:00 Category EducationalTagged Art Fair, BRAFA, Background information, Buying Art