Joie de Vivre: The Graphic Art of Raoul Dufy
February 19 – May 1, 2005
Raoul Dufy created one of the most joyous bodies of work of his era. This is particularly true of his lyrically rendered and lively graphic works and drawings, which capture the essence of his subjects through an economy of means. The artist is also known for using bright, expressive colors, learned in part from Henri Matisse and other fellow Fauve painters—Paris' "wild beasts" known for their shocking use of pure, brilliant hues applied in a direct and confrontational manner. Dufy's Fauvist compositions, however, were rendered with a decidedly softer touch, at once colorful and graphically modern like his colleagues, yet with a distinguishing lightheartedness of spirit.
Drawn entirely from the Crocker's permanent collection, the exhibition celebrates a major donation of Dufy's work given by Sue Kelly Adams in memory of her father Ewing Cole Kelly in 2003. Spanning nearly 50 years of the artist's career, the drawings, gouaches and pen-and-ink sketches in this exhibition make clear the elegant charm that the artist brought to his favorite subjects. Examples of his fabric designs, commissions from Paris couturier Paul Poiret, are also included.
Dufy was born June 3, 1877, in Le Havre, France, into a large family whose consuming passion was music. In 1892, he began training as a draftsman at the École Municipale des Beaux-Arts, where he met Braque and Othon Friesz. He won a scholarship to study in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, developing a style of cautious Impressionism under Léon Bonnat. After viewing Matisse's Luxe, Calme et Volupté at the Salon des Indépendants in 1905, Dufy moved toward the brighter colors and approach of Fauvism. The following year, he held his first one-person show at the Berthe Weill Gallery, Paris, where he exhibited throughout his career. Financial hardship prompted him to explore media other than painting, including woodcut, lithography, mural and theater design and textile printing. Sojourns to the Mediterranean and Morocco in the 1920s introduced a new luminosity to his painting, and he added watercolor to his repertoire. Gradually his reputation abroad grew, and in 1931 he was awarded a Carnegie International Prize. His first one-person museum exhibition in the United States was at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1939. An extended visit to the United States from 1950-51 was accompanied by a traveling exhibition, reinforcing the worldwide reputation he enjoyed until crippling arthritis impaired his work. He died soon after on March 23, 1953.
The spontaneous exuberance and direct, uncomplicated nature of Dufy's drawings and paintings seem to belie the artist's thorough academic training and technical virtuosity. Best known for his use of color and line to convey mood, place and atmosphere, Dufy's confident handling of the figure, landscape and cheerful public gatherings are highlighted by the graphic works included in this exhibition. The energy with which he rendered these subjects befits modern French life in the early 20th century and continues to make Dufy a favorite of international audiences today.