Raoul Dufy (Le Havre 1877 - Forcalquier 1953)

The Bay of Sainte-Adresse Sold

Pencil on white paper.
Extensively inscribed by the artist lumieres à gauche, contre jour ou ombre, lumières a droite, bleu, vert dégradé, carul(?), ocre rouge [?] blanc, orient et persian(?) blanc et noir in the margins of the sheet.
200 x 587 mm. (7 7/8 x 23 1/8 in.) [image]
500 x 654 mm. (9 5/8 x 25 3/4 in.) [sheet]


Raoul Dufy painted his native town of Le Havre and the expanse of the bay of Sainte-Adresse throughout his career. As has been noted, ‘There is also, in Dufy’s visual repertoire, the pier and the bathing beach of the Casino Marie-Christine with the little harbour, the shallow cliffs, the church, the bathers and the fishermen of Dufy’s youthful playground in real life: Sainte-Adresse, already painted by Boudin and Monet, when Dufy was still a boy…Regattas and yacht races were in his blood from his childhood in Le Havre: blue sea and blue sky flood through his work.’

Of Dufy’s yachting subjects in particular, one scholar has written, ‘Even a slight study of the later racecourse and yachting paintings will show a strong abstract predilection which continually goes far beyond mere topography. These paintings are like visual tone-poems, with their veils and bands of colour, their merger of sea and sky into one enveloping great sweep of blue, structured by squares of light, their own scintillating areas of colour setting up a counterpoint at variance with the objects depicted…even more emphatically abstract are those yachting subjects in which the furling of sails, Le sèchage des voiles, and other convolutions of air, sea, light, space, wheeling gulls and – spiralling in swirling conical and triangular shapes – the sails, are transformed into a series of magical evocations of movement which, however practical in their origin, end in Dufy’s hands as abstract structures of great beauty.’

In its rectangular, panoramic format, the present sheet would appear to be a preparatory study for a large, signed gouache by Dufy, of similar composition and identical dimensions. A slightly smaller variant of the same composition, also drawn in gouache, was in a private Japanese collection in 1983. Both gouaches are in turn related to one of the best-known works of Dufy’s career; the very large painting on cotton of La Baie de Sainte-Adresse, one of a series of fourteen ‘tentures’ commissioned by Paul Poiret for the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs of 1925. These tentures were large wall hangings, painted in mordant colours on dyed cotton and measuring almost three metres high and four metres in length. They were intended to hang as decoration on a barge on the Seine, where Poiret had chosen to display his work during the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs. As one scholar has noted of this particular composition, ‘A frequent event in Le Havre, the regatta played an important part in the life of the people of the city. The sailboat race shown in the hanging is based on the one organized for the visit of the English flotilla. It provides Dufy with an excuse to portray the Seine estuary and the Bay of Sainte-Adresse with its cliffs stretching off to the north, encouraging daydreams and escapism.’

Extensively annotated by the artist with colour notes, this large sheet – despite the apparent spontaneity of the draughtsmanship - underlines the care with which Dufy developed his painted compositions.

Raoul DUFY

The Bay of Sainte-Adresse


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