Jean Dupas was born in Bordeaux in 1892 and during his lifetime was associated with other well known artists of the Bordeaux school, such as Robert Eugene Pougheon, René Buthaud, Jean Gabriel Domergue, Raphael Delorme, and Alfred Janniot. In 1910, he was awarded the prestigious Prix de Rome, and spent two years studying in Italy. He returned to Paris following the World War. In 1922, he won a gold medal at the Salon des Artistes Français with 'Les Pigeons Blancs', a painting begun during his stay in Rome, and finished upon his return to Paris. It was this painting that launched Dupas career as a successful painter and established his reputation.
Dupas was approached by the Bordeaux industrialist Henri Frugès (1879-1974), whom he had already met during the war with his friend René Buthaud. Frugès was in the process of renovating his townhouse, Hôtel Daverne, which he acquired in 1912 and named 'Palais Idéal'. Supervised by the architect Pierre Ferret, a well-known Bourdelais figure, Frugès' wish was to create a firmly modernist interior, and he called on well-known local and Parisian artists to implement his vision. Included in the project were the Maison Daum, Jean Dunand, Edgar Brandt, René Buthaud and Jean Dupas.
The here offered painting, titled 'La femme à l'ara', is a preparatory painting for a mural along the central staircase of the townhouse. The Jean Dupas archive includes a less elaborate drawing of the first sketch of this painting which is inscribed by the hand of the artist 'Etude pour Mr. Frugès'. 'La femme à l'ara' bears a paper label on the reverse which is inscribed by the hand of the artist 'Esquisse du grand panneau de la décoration de l'escalier de l'hôtel de M.F. A Bordeaux'. The central staircase in the townhouse where the mural was to be located was decorated with a grand wrought-iron banister by Edgar Brandt. The staircase originally accommodated an ensemble of neo-gothic wall paneling where presumably the mural by Dupas would have been integrated. However, after many renovations of the building, none of the remaining elements indicate whether the project was ever finished.
The composition of the present painting resembles 'Les Pigeons Blancs', which has never been located again. The colors used by Dupas for 'La femme à l'ara' are strikingly vivid and the figures and animals are stylized in a particularly contemporary taste and lend the picture an air of modernity. In the 1950s, the painting was given as a present to the ballerina Micheline Bardin Levin by her mentor Gabriel Voisin for her first appearance in a starring role at the Théâtre National de L'Opéra de Paris.
Dupas later participated in the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes with 'Les Perruches' in the Hôtel d'un Collectionneur, the pavilion outfitted by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann. This painting, the focal point of the room, was to become one of his most famous achievements and the embodiment of Art Deco movement. It was in 1934 that Dupas created a monumental mural of verre eglomisé panels for the Grand Salon of the ocean liner SS Normandie. Portions of this mural can be seen today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
We would like to thank Romain Lefevre for his kind assistance in the cataloguing of this lot. The painting will be included in the catalogue raisonée of Jean Dupas' work currently in preparation by Mr. Lefevre. We would also like to thank Prof. Robert Coustet for his kind assistance in the cataloguing of this lot.