Painted in circa 1924, La promenade au bord de la mer, depicts one of the most popular themes in the work of Raoul Dufy. A native of Normandy – Dufy was born in Le Havre – the artist had been painting Sainte-Adresse since his early career. La promenade au bord de la mer, captures a scene seemingly from the end of summer: under a mercurial sky, a few passers-by have stopped to contemplate some boats, floating on a menacing sea. Using broad brushstrokes of green, blue and grey, Dufy has managed to depict the deep, somber tones of agitated waters, as well as the menacing icy light of a volatile sky.
In 1905, the Fauvist exploit at the Salon d’Automne had strongly impressed the young Dufy, who embraced colours and flowing lines following the example of Henri Matisse. It was, however, Albert Marquet who showed Dufy the path towards Fauvism: the two artists spent the summer of 1906 painting together in Le Havre, Trouville and Honfleur, portraying, among other subjects, Sainte-Adresse.
By the time Dufy painted La promenade au bord de la mer, in the 1920s, however, he had found his own style: brilliant and direct colours are combined with simplified figures and schematic compositions, which vividly evoke the lively narratives of modern life. Perhaps commenting on the development of his own style, in one of his notebooks Dufy had observed: ‘One may paint from nature throughout one’s life, but one may also accept that, having learned by years of practice which have shown us all the outward appearances that things can assume, and having discovered, through analysis and reflection, the main cause behind the phenomena of light and colour (…) you have been able to establish a system for yourself that enables you to express yourself, brush in hand, without being forced constantly to go back and check each individual thing checked so often before’ (Handwritten note, quoted in D. Perez-Tibi, Dufy, London, 1989, p.139).