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Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
Property from the Collection of John W. Kluge Sold to Benefit Columbia University
Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)

Les assurances privées

Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
Les assurances privées
signed 'Raoul Dufy' (lower left)
oil on canvas
222 5/8 in. x 66½ in. (565.5 x 169 cm.)
Painted circa 1937
Les Arts Plastique Moderne, Paris.
Acquired by the previous owner, by 2001.

Lot Essay

Fanny Guillon-Laffaille has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.

Raoul Dufy's oeuvre is celebrated for colorful, picturesque, playful views of city streets, beaches, horse races, ports and studios. He assembles many of these favored images in Les assurances privées (the boat, the train, the couple) and arranges them within the composition in deliberately naïve, childish style. "Dufy's characteristic use of a compact, tersely eloquent calligraphy and pure, clean, unfussed, fast-flowing line is perhaps the most radical extension in the first half of the twentieth century of van Gogh's passionately forceful and explosive handling of line and color in his own later paintings...The second but really co-existent factor in Dufy's art is obviously color, most unconstrained by tonality" (B. Robertson, Raoul Dufy, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1983, p. 18).

This system of painting became Dufy's "signature" style in the 1920s and he continued to work in this manner until his death in 1953. His good friend Gertrude Stein described his artistic approach in the following terms: "think of Dufy, nobody calls him abstract but he is, he does not paint what he sees he paints what he is, and certainly it is not what anybody else sees...he abstracts the colors of which he is made and he puts them down in the light and shade of which he is made and his eyes have very little to do with it, except to work with...Dufy is pleasure" (quoted in ibid., p. 67).

Dufy's experiments with tapestry and textiles earned him several commissions for murals and set designs. The large scale format of Les assurances privées is suggestive of his work with scenery designs that he had first created with Gauconnet for Cocteau's Le boeuf sur le Toit in 1920 and, later, for Gilbert Miller's production of Ring Around the Moon and The New York City Ballet's production of A la Francaix in the early 1950s. It also recalls his mural decorations for the Palais de Chaillot theater bar which he worked on between 1937-1940. In discussing Dufy's large-scale murals Antoinette Rezé-Huré notes: "it is the essentially rhetorical nature of large scale composition which must be appreciated: a number of figures or forms are designed, assembled, and then must be freely disposed to illustrate a point of convergence, a moment of communion, an idea fulfilled. This was Dufy's constant aim" (ibid., p. 109).

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