Born in 1877, Raoul Dufy was twenty-three years old at the dawn of the 20th Century. He was therefore uniquely poised to experience both the academicism of 19th Century painting, epitomized by his lessons at Léon Bonnat's atelier, and the radical innovations of the coming era. At the time the present work was executed, Dufy was living in Paris, working in a studio at 31 Quai Bourbon, and associating with a circle of artists that included Emile-Othon Friesz, Albert Marquet and Georges Braque. It is therefore unsurprising that the earliest traces of both Fauvism's originality of color and Cubism's advances in form can be witnessed in the paintings of Dufy's early Parisian period.
The present landscape was executed in 1905, the same year that the critic Louis Vauxcelles coined the term "Fauves" to designate Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Albert Marquet and Henri Manguin the "wild beasts" of that year's Salon d'Automne. It was also the year that Dufy saw Henri Matisse's 1904 painting Luxe, Calme, et Volupté at the Salon des Indépendants. He was profoundly struck by the large painting, declaring it "a miracle of the creative imagination at play in color and line." Though the present work adheres to natural color more than Derain's Collioure, Le village et la mer of the same year (fig. 1), Dufy's Fauvist inclinations are evident in his painting's ice-blue hills, and in the pink and purple accents that punctuate the landscape. In the canvas's upper corners, Dufy makes use of the same small, parallel strokes employed by Derain, a technique that adds a decorative rhythm to the composition.
If Matisse and the Fauves influenced Dufy's use of color, the influence of Paul Cézanne lent density and structure to Dufy's early pictures. As Philippe Dagen points out in his essay "Des préoccuptations exclusives de technique? Dufy, Cézanne, l'impressionisme et le fauvisme," by 1905 Dufy would have seen Cézanne's canvases and watercolors at the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d'Automne, as well as at Ambroise Vollard's gallery (Raoul Dufy, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, 1999, p. 34). The effect of Cézanne's proto-Cubist planarity can be witnessed in the angular solidity of the house and surrounding rooftops in Dufy's landscape. Further, in the painting's lower right corner, the parallel strokes have become more structural than ornamental, suggesting substantial form over mere pattern.
Alfred Werner effectively summarizes this dual influence on Dufy, writing that "from the Fauves [Dufy] learned to simplify forms and to apply color in violent juxtaposition for the sake of utmost expressiveness; from Cézanne he learned the secret of producing, through the architectural organization of planes, the effect of things existing in space" (Raoul Dufy, New York, 1953, n.p.). The present work bears evidence of both of these major innovations in early 20th Century painting.
(fig. 1), André Derain, Collioure, Le village et la mer, 1905.